By Ryan Meehan
Early Friday reports began to circle around the sports media world regarding the New Orleans Saints and whether or not former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had offered cash incentives to certain players in attempt to knock the opposition’s quarterback out of certain games.
I’m not going to sit here and argue how frequently this is going on, I’m sure it similar to the amphetamine era of baseball where everybody knew it was a little bit weird but it was commonplace to turn a blind eye. Instead, I’m just going to offer a few talking points here and then hopefully we won’t have to discuss this at great lengths from this point forward. Here are a few things I’ve identified as talking points since this story broke.
1. Now that they’ve shown that hit on Kurt Warner a few more times, I do have to admit it was a little severe.
I understand that we’re talking about a contact and collision sport here, but now that Sportscenter’s replayed the Warner hit a couple of times, it does look awfully suspect. You could make the argument that Warner had become a blocker at that point, but he never would have known because he was totally blindsided. Kurt got blasted, plain and simple.
2. Brett Favre blowing off Sports Illustrated by saying “That’s football” because he’ll never have to take another snap is super weak.
Yes, Brett Favre was a very tough player that took a lot of shots in his day and absorbed them with much more dignity than most guys would. But later on in his career it seemed like there was this unspoken rule that you didn’t mess with Brett, because he was good for the league. What bothers me most about that is the fact that this is the exact type of thing that I’m sure Favre complained about at the end of his career. If it wasn’t him, somebody was complaining on his behalf because it seemed like if someone so much as touched him in stride there were flags flying everywhere.
3. For the first time in a long time, Troy Aikman doesn’t have anything to say about this and I think that’s awesome.
Somewhere along the line every sports media outlet decided that whenever there was a situation where a quarterback got lit up it was immediately Troy Aikman’s duty to give his opinion about what should be done based on his previous experience. I have a problem with this for two reasons: First off, linemen get popped on every single play…why aren’t we fishing for what former Eagles offensive tackle Jon Runyan has to say every time the subject of concussions comes up? Second – Why would we be asking anybody who suffers from a brain injury to relive one of those moments just so we can get a sound bite? There’s no ethical issue there? That’s odd considering the subject matter…
Of course now that I’ve brought it up, with my bad luck Aikman will write a whole book about just this.
The closest parallel I can come up with:
Maybe my earlier comparison to the amphetamines era in baseball isn’t the best analogy here. So let’s link it to something else, say the New England Patriots getting busted for videotaping another team’s practice.
A lot of people seem to have forgotten this, but the Patriots were kind of America’s team after 9/11. The Cowboys were shit, the Giants and the Jets sure weren’t going to make anything happen, and Pats owner Robert Kraft even went so far in the postgame interview of that Super Bowl to declare that “Today we are all Patriots”. There were a lot of neutral NFL fans that rallied behind them because Tom Brady at the time was a great underdog story and they had a very tough, hard-nosed defense composed of players who were really nice guys off of the field.
But then “Spygate” happened. Almost overnight, and probably faster than I’ve ever seen anyone’s opinion of a franchise change, instantly the New England Patriots were evil. Everybody started to view them as being worse than if the New York Yankees additionally had the Los Angeles Lakers’ payroll and were poisoning small children at community events.
Now flash forward to 2005, when the city of New Orleans was very nearly destroyed by a hurricane. Suddenly there was a very human element to the Saints, and football fans of teams that weren’t in the NFC South found themselves rooting for N’Awlins. And then when they won the Super Bowl, there was this general consensus that the franchise had completed the circle and were now part of the NFL’s elite class.
Friday rolls around, and then everyone starts asking all of the “what if” questions: “What if they used this motivation to compensate for the fact that their defense it’s the half of their squad that wins the games for them?”, “What if other teams were doing it as well?”, “What if this taints their almost storybook rise to Super Bowl glory?”, “What if I hadn’t decided to use the word “taint” in that last question, would you still be chuckling?”
The truth is, probably the best damage control was done by Williams himself owning up to it. As I’ve stated before plenty of times in my pieces, the best time this can happen is on a Friday or Saturday, because then the ESPN talking heads don’t have until Monday to comment on it. That’s great for athletes, owners, and commissioners because by Saturday evening usually those same talking heads are having a few stiff drinks and realizing that these are just games, and what they do for a living isn’t that serious.
So how do football fans view the Saints from here?
That’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question. (And don’t forget: if you’re ever answering a $64,000 question remember that puts you in the 48% tax bracket, so maybe that might help take the pressure off a little bit. Take a deep breath. Plus, 70% of the time the answer is C. anyway) In both the Patriots and Saints cases, they were both doing something wrong and the league has no choice but to take action when something like that occurs.
So will the fans turn on the Saints the same way they turned on New England? With the Saints the answer might be a little bit different because the hurricane was so devastating and let’s be honest, New Orleans didn’t exactly have a whole lot to smile about to begin with. I sincerely hope NFL fans don’t turn on the Saints, but then again I thought the composite reaction to the Patriots’ “scandal” got blown way out of proportion.
Personally, I am not salivating one drop at the idea that there might be more to this story as it develops. Honestly, I wish it will go away as soon as possible regardless of how much material it might provide me with. My guess would be that this happens all of the time amongst defensive coordinators, the coaches are well aware of it, and basically tell the DCs – “Look, just don’t get caught”. Now, I’m not saying that they all do it, but it’s out there.
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