Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gregg Williams Tape

Alright, so I did hear about the Gregg Williams' tape on ESPN today. And I can't say it didn't disturb me. It did. But that's probably mostly because I'm a Niners' fan. And after hearing Gregg Williams instruct his players to target the Achilles' heel of each of San Francisco's skill players, I'm a bit shaken. But not because the speech was so bloodthirsty. Because it was about the Niners. I don't know what our team would've done without Smith at the helm and Gore in the backfield. They probably would've lost. But this story is not about the Niners, it's about the NFL as a whole.

The implications for Williams are great. The audio evidence is pretty damning; he clearly tells his players to target the following players:

  • Frank Gore: "We've got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore's head."
  • Kendall Hunter: "Little 32, we're going to knock the [expletive] out of him."
  • Kyle Williams: "We need to find out in the first two series of the game, that little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion."
  • Michael Crabtree: "We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fake-[expletive] prima donna, or he wants to be a tough guy. We need to find out. He becomes human when we [expletive] take out that outside ACL."
  • Vernon Davis: "We need to decide how many times we can bull rush and and we can [expletive] put Vernon Davis' ankles over the pile."
This goes against everything Roger Goodell has tried to preach in the NFL about player safety. This goes against all the fines he's instituted in recent years. This speech could mean that Goodell has been targeting the wrong people. It's not the players who are trying to knock out other players, it's the coaches.

This could lead to a league-wide examination of the coaching practices of all other 31 teams. This probably will cost Williams his job and cast him as the scapegoat for coaching malpractice. It is obviously not right to bribe players to hurt other players and Goodell will likely try to send a message to the league by banning Williams from the NFL.

I do think that all will happen, but there are more important things at stake. I'm pretty sure every team's defensive coordinator encourages big hits and bone-crushing blows. So, in my mind, Williams is being unrightfully cast as a scapegoat. I don't think he's much different from many other coaches. However, banning him for life like the MLB banned Pete Rose is probably the right decision for many of the aforementioned reasons. Williams clearly went against Goodell's beliefs and efforts by encouraging players to critically injure other players. This is not right.

There is a whole 'nother side to this debate however. People who don't believe that Williams did anything out of the ordinary would argue that football is a violent sport. Injuries do happen. And it's hard to believe that a defensive player would suddenly decide to play harder and hit harder because a coach tells them to. Many fans will tell you that the New Orleans defense was not much rougher during the Niners game than any other game during the season. Williams' words probably did not have much of an effect.

But that's not really the problem here. The problem here is that a coach is willing to sacrifice player safety for wins. It's an attitude problem that has to be fixed.

And the way to send a strong message sometimes will result in an unfair designation of a scapegoat. If it makes a difference though, it's worth it for sure. That's why I think Williams has to be banned, to preserve the integrity of the game. Football has to be fair and that message has to be sent loud and clear.

What do you think about this scandal that is erupting across football?

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