What We Learned This Week in the NFL Offseason:
- The New Orleans Saints had a bounty program ran by Gregg Williams in 2009
- NFL Teams go Franchise Tagging crazy
- The Steelers send some longtime veterans packing
Apparently the “feel good story” of 2009, the New Orleans Saints, were operating under a bounty program managed and maintained by then defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as released in an investigation by the NFL this week. The defense paid each other bounties for injuring hits on opposing teams’ players. The details included that Saints defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10K to a player to take out Brett Favre in the NFC Championship game. The investigation also uncovered that Saints head coach Sean Payton knew about the program and took no action to stop it.
My initial reaction to this was “how in the world does this get out of the locker room?” I’m not appalled at the idea of it, the idea of it going on as wide spread as it appears to be that is. This is very bad for the NFL. It’s encompasses rules violations that no one even considered. As Craig pointed out in last night’s podcast, this is a form of gambling. Having Jonathan Vilma offer $10K to whoever took out Favre in the NFC Championship game is no different than him saying to the team, “I bet you can’t take Favre out of this game.” Besides the point it’s a clear violation of the CBA, the IRS could be looking at these players to see just how much seemingly tax free money they took home each season that they might now be held accountable for. The league is going to need some serious PR recovery after this. In 2008 when Terrell Suggs admitted to having a “bounty” on Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall and hitting him with a season-ending shoulder injury, the league basically just shrugged the allegations off, as if it didn’t mean anything.
Apparently Williams has been instituting such systems in each team he’s coached on going back to 2002. Williams is currently coordinating the defense for the St. Louis Rams. Now Williams is being called to the Principal’s Office a.k.a Roger Goodell’s office in New York Monday morning to discuss any discipline that probably won’t be handed down anytime soon. Many are predicting that the punishment involved will be worse than the Patriots were dealt following “Spy-Gate”. Maybe Goodell will destroy all the evidence of this investigation as well.
Here’s the thing, this investigation has been going on for the past 2 years by the NFL. The fact that the details have come out before Goodell hands down any punishment is ridiculous. It only proves to me further that Goodell in his infinite wisdom when it comes to discipline for this league is to sit and wait to see first how popular the party or parties involved are with fans and second to see the public outrage involved before he decides to levy punishment. One big thing that Goodell is completely inept at is handling his position as the great and powerful Oz when it comes to punishment because he can’t do it evenly or fairly to save his friggin life. James Harrison tweeted on Sunday, “I’ll just say this; if that was me I would have been kicked out of the NFL!!!”
I don’t think I’m being a naïve homer when I say that I wouldn’t believe for a second that the Steelers would ever have such a bounty program in place. First off, I can’t really see a coach like Dick LeBeau signing off on it, nor could I see Tomlin, Cowher, or any of the assistant coaches from the past 10 years letting something like this go on. Steelers defensive players don’t need the extra motivation of $1,500 to hit anyone hard. If a Steeler player can walk passed those six Lombardi trophies on their way to the locker room and still think they need a couple hundred dollar “incentive” to play hard, they’re in the wrong organization. This is why this whole thing is going to be super frustrating for most of Steeler Nation. Our defense is constantly being painted as “dirty” while these other teams are the ones actually breaking rules and profiting off of the injuries of other players. If the Steelers have had a bounty system, I would at least hope that we would have seen a lot more injuries to Tom Brady or Joe Flacco the past couple of years.
In the meantime while the Saints await punishment they placed the franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees. Other players getting tagged this week while teams scrambled to lock up free agents and get under the cap before the fiscal year begins were Ray Rice, DeSean Jackson, and Matt Forte. The Steelers went in a different direction with RFA Mike Wallace, tendering him instead of tagging him. This means that other teams will be able to make an offer on Wallace and if the Steelers are unable to unwilling to match, they will be compensated with a first round pick in return for losing Wallace. Though it seems that the interest in Wallace has dropped recently, it’s still a pretty risky move in my opinion.
The Steelers ended the week with the terminations of several contracts ensuring this year’s training camp will not look the same for sure. Steeler Nation said good bye to Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, and James Farrior. Along with the retirement of Chris Hoke earlier this completely revamps a defense most of us have known for quite a while. The Steelers also made another offensive cut of Chris Kemoeatu, ensuring we will no longer hear the call by the refs of “Fifteen yard penalty for jumping on the pile late, number 68 offense”. I hate to see some of these players go, but that’s the reality of the NFL. It’s a business and it’s not always parades and pep rallies. Part of me wants all these guys to retire so that if Steeler Nation can’t have them no one else can either but that’s not realistic either.
The Steelers are putting an extreme amount of pressure on themselves for the upcoming season, in my opinion. You don’t make these kinds of changes in the offseason like a new OC, cutting veterans, or risking losing the number one receiver for a first round draft pick to go 9-7 the following season. Even finishing 12-4 and losing in the first round of the playoffs wouldn’t be up to snuff either. Here’s hoping the end justifies the means.
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