Editor’s note: Paul Fischer is an avid Oakland Raiders fanatic, and this is his take on the recent scandal that is ravaging through the NFL regarding former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
So the latest hot topic in the NFL is player bounties…that is to say that “taking out” a certain player on the other team yields cash rewards. The main target in Rodger Goodell’s latest crusade in an ongoing effort to take the sport we all know and love and make it more closely resemble the Pro Bowl is current St. Louis Ram’s defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The recently uncovered bounty program took place during Williams’ time in the same position with the New Orleans Saints. For the time being, Williams is the only man being questioned about the bounty program, but he is not the only one linked to it. Included in the names of coaches who very well may be subject to disciplinary action include Saint’s head coach Sean Peyton, and our very own Dennis Allen. Allen coached defensive backs for New Orleans from 2006-2010, and was either actively participating in the bounty program or turned a blind eye to it…but at this point, this is all speculation.
So what does this mean for our first year head coach? How severe should the penalties be? Should the Raider organization have to pay for something it had nothing to do with?
It SHOULD mean nothing. There should be no penalties for ANYONE involved, and the Raider organization should not be penalized.
First, a little disclaimer for the reader: I love football. Specifically, Raider football…a mystique that was forged in the days when players played for glory, for the love of the game. A player would commonly stay with the same team for most of his career…this was a league where loyalty and rivalries meant something. The league was not driven by superstar players with multimillion dollar contracts, and it WAS great.
Fast forward to 2012, where the NFL has become a watered down, commercialized version of its former self. Until last year, an unproven ROOKIE QB could get a 60 million dollar contract before taking a snap IN PRACTICE. [I'm looking at you, Jamarcus Russel]. The tackle area on a quarterback is practically the size of a football, and said quarterback can actually call for a roughing flag AND GET IT if he is touched outside of this area. The commissioner has made it his personal mission to improve player safety (read: protect INVESTMENTS) and there is no turning back. For those like myself, the NFL is a shadow of its former self..but it’s still football, and we still love it.
Now, an argument against what will likely be a harsh punishment for this bounty program:
Football is a contact sport. There is no way around that, until Goodell has the quarterback and all skill players wearing flags. The penalty for a helmet to helmet hit is 25K for the first offense, going up increments of 25K for repeat offenses. NFL.com reports the bounties for knocking a player out of the game where 1.5K, substantially LOWER than the price a player would have to pay for an obvious dirty hit, even with the supposed multiplier for playoff games. What does this mean? If you want to earn the bounty and not lose money (and cost the team 15 yards and a new set of downs), a defensive player would have to hit a target hard, but CLEAN. That sounds like good defense to me. Are there other ways to take a player out of the game without concussive force? Sure. It’s also risky as a defensive player because going low for the tackle (knee or leg injury) is a one shot thing; if they hurdle you or drop their body weight and spin away and there is no safety help it’s a substantially bigger gain, if not a touchdown. $1500 sounds like a lot to you and me, but for the average starting defensive player? Couch change. This sounds much more like a motivational tool to me, and not like the devious assault on player safety that the NFL is likely to make it out to be.
While the ethics of placing a bounty on players can be considered wrong, the application of it is pretty toothless. This is the Saints defense we’re talking about here! This same entire defense couldn’t stop Marshawn Lynch…how dangerous can this unit really be? Did the Saints defense during that period cause any significant injuries? I can’t think of ONE. As I confessed earlier, the Raider football that I love is the one where Jack Tatum instilled fear into anyone coming into his zone. Do you think that made receivers think twice about going into his zone? Do you think just the thought of “The Assassin” laying the wood on ya would make you drop a pass or two? The point is, the defense getting into the heads of an offense is a strategic advantage, and hitting them hard is how you do it. Making a defender think twice about playing hard takes away from the competitive balance of the game, adding to the long list of rule advantages the offense already enjoys.