Gregg Williams was coordinating the Saints' and Redskins' defenses when those teams' defensive players allegedly earned extra cash for knocking out opponents. And with similar revelations coming out from Buffalo, where Williams was once head coach, Williams appears additionally vulnerable to NFL discipline.
Williams' cooperation with the NFL's investigation into the Saints, signaled by his recent statement of contrition, will presumably help his cause. However, Williams' cooperation with investigations into the Redskins and/or Bills would seem to work against him.
Williams is in prime position to cooperate with the Saints investigation. He no longer works for the team, so he would not face internal pressure to withhold information. Williams loses nothing if the Saints incur fines or lose draft choices. The league obviously has much invested in making an example of the Saints, adding value to whatever Williams can tell them. But if the NFL determines Williams was a driving force behind bounty systems in Washington and Buffalo, then what?
Coy Wire, a former safety for the Bills during Williams' tenure there, described a culture of "malicious intent" toward opposing players, according to the Buffalo News. Another teammate said the culture was mostly player-driven.
"There were rewards," Wire told the News. "There never was a point where cash was handed out in front of the team. But surely, you were going to be rewarded. When somebody made a big hit that hurt an opponent, it was commended and encouraged."
The NFL will have to determine just how far it wants to go in changing the culture of its game. Formal bounty systems obviously cross the line. But if a pass-rusher could privately guarantee knocking out the opposing quarterback every week, let's face it, that player would rank among the highest-paid in the league. Punishing quarterbacks will always be a top priority.
Former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington, appearing on Sirius radio, framed what happened during his Washington tenure within the broader NFL culture.
"My intent was to deliver what would be considered a kill shot within the framework of what football is," Arrington said. "Not trying to hurt somebody or injure them, but again, the reality that exists, we all know what happens in pileups, from the names that are called during pileups to what ankles might get turned, private parts get punched and grabbed, people get scratched. There are a lot of things that go on."