FanDuel - WFBC

March 02, 2012

Say it Ain'ts So: The NFL has announced that they are investigating reports that players and coaches for the New Orleans Saints paid into a pool that then rewarded players for such things as interceptions, fumble recoverys, as well as "knockouts" and "cart-offs." NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has "advised the Saints that he will hold proceedings to determine potential discipline against the team and the individuals involved, and confer with the players' union regarding the approriate [sic] punishment. That discipline could include fines, suspensions and the forfeiture of draft choices."

posted by scully to football at 04:16 PM - 25 comments

The quote is actually from an ESPN article from today. Also from that article is this quote from the rules:

"No bonus or award may directly or indirectly be offered, promised, announced, or paid to a player for his or his team's performance against a particular team or opposing player or a particular group thereof. No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on field misconduct (for example, personal fouls to or injuries inflicted on opposing players)."

posted by scully at 04:19 PM on March 02

'pay for performance' program--Gregg Williams

He makes it sound like an incentive program.

posted by roberts at 05:44 PM on March 02

It almost seems as other players are the players worst enemy. Pretty hard for NFL players to blame the game or the league for the dangers of football when it seems they themselves are not willing to put safety ahead of money or playing the game the way they want to play it. I wonder if the players union put certain practices like helmet to helmet hitting to a vote, if they would vote to keep it in the game or remove it. The league may be more concerned about certain practices then the players and teams themselves. Just an observation.

Hard to believe this is only one team's practice. Are the Saints the only team that does this stuff? or the only team that has been caught.

posted by Atheist at 06:02 PM on March 02

Based on his defensive approach of big blitzes that consistently get his team burned, I would have assumed that Gregg Williams was offering bonuses for each additional player who rushes the passer.

The interesting thing to see will whether this results in greater sanctions than Spygate. My guess is that, with all of the concussion awareness, this could well result in similar or more robust sanctions. On the other hand, based on some of the other things I have read, this goes on at least informally all over the league (whereas the taping of opponents' practices presumably did not).

As a Saints fan, I guess I would reluctantly be okay with the Saints forfeiting their 1st round draft pick this year.

posted by holden at 06:12 PM on March 02

Pretty hard for NFL players to blame the game or the league for the dangers of football

Kill me now.

According to ESPN, the Redskins had a similar program when Williams was D-Coordinator there.

posted by yerfatma at 06:46 PM on March 02

If this pans out as true I think pretty hefty fines/sanctions have to come down. That being said, I'm quite certain that whatever does come down won't be enough.

The Saints won a Super Bowl via this crap, and from what I've heard the head coach was very aware of the program. If hands are slapped, it will not be enough to stop future violations. If winning the Super Bowl is the payoff, and minor sanctions are the penalty, nothing changes. Giving up one 1st round pick does not stop it.

The hit on Favre alone is enough for this (biased) Viking fan to believe the hit-squad behavior occurred. The officials looked the other way then, I expect the league to do their best to look the other way now.

To Atheist's point, if players are going to willingly put "hits" on other players, with the goal being a cart-off, then yeah, I think it's hard for the players to act like the league "uses them up".

posted by dviking at 07:09 PM on March 02

Vacate their Super Bowl win.

That would give Peyton two rings and then he could just turn in his uniform and call it a day.

posted by beaverboard at 07:36 PM on March 02

This seems far worse than the Pats video taping practices (since that's the only extremely harsh punishment of a team and the coaching staff I can think of in recent football history). Let's hope it's isolated to the one coach and terrible oversight/permissiveness of the management. Wouldn't like to learn this is a common thing (as in the cycling world's continuing collapse since the Festina revelations).

posted by kokaku at 08:11 PM on March 02

As a Saints fan, I guess I would reluctantly be okay with the Saints forfeiting their 1st round draft pick this year.

It would have to be for next year. They already traded this year's away.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 08:18 PM on March 02

YYM -- was being a bit tongue in cheek (I know, I know, we should not joke about these things, but I could not resist). 10 games of Mark Ingram was well worth the first round draft pick.

posted by holden at 09:42 PM on March 02

The Saints shouldn't be forced to forfeit any draft picks beyond those already voluntarily relinquished by Mike Ditka.

posted by beaverboard at 11:09 PM on March 02

This seems far worse than the Pats video taping practices

The pool is wrong, especially the knockouts portion.

But the Patriots taping is the lowest form of cheating and there is no comparison.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:13 AM on March 03

To Atheist's point, if players are going to willingly put "hits" on other players, with the goal being a cart-off, then yeah, I think it's hard for the players to act like the league "uses them up".

I'd bet the offense has no such pool. If this practice has followed Coach Williams around, then the players doing the hitting probably think of it as a requirement to keep their job.

There is really no excuse for this behavior especially now that everyone knows the toll these hits have long-term.

posted by bperk at 07:50 AM on March 03

But the Patriots taping is the lowest form of cheating and there is no comparison.

Yes. One is an offense against the game -- the other is an offense against humanity.

posted by Etrigan at 09:50 AM on March 03

I'd bet the offense has no such pool. If this practice has followed Coach Williams around, then the players doing the hitting probably think of it as a requirement to keep their job.

While it's hard to tell if the offense was involved in the pool at this point...what would stop a offensive lineman from purposely diving on the knee of an opponent that was already on the ground after a tackle...if they knew about the program and did nothing, they're a part of it. I find it almost impossible to believe they had no awareness.

As to others thinking it was a requirement to keep their jobs, really? I could believe some college kid thinking it was the only way to keep his scholarship under a ruthless coach, but not NFL players. They all know better, the league has rules that all have to sign, and clearly they had NFLPA reps in the locker room.

posted by dviking at 10:03 AM on March 03

But the Patriots taping is the lowest form of cheating and there is no comparison.

As a Pats fan, I do think the Pats' actions were worse. But I think some people have really re-invented what the Pats did in their minds. They taped practices of other teams. I can think of things worse than that. And, given both involve the sport of football, I do think the two items are comparable. In fact, there has to be for you to rank them, doesn't it?

posted by yerfatma at 10:37 AM on March 03

As for this being Aints only, there were rumors (which we discussed here) that the Giants had a similar thing targeting kick and punt returner when playing the Niners in the NFC Championship game.

posted by billsaysthis at 02:39 PM on March 03

If this practice has followed Coach Williams around, then the players doing the hitting probably think of it as a requirement to keep their job.

I think this is the most important point to me. Brett Favre has been fairly blasé about the whole thing, but I have to agree with him: defensive players are out there to do as much damage as they possibly can. If you can tell me for sure that someone went outside their assignment and made a poor-technique tackle with the intent to blow out someone's knee or break an arm, that's horrible. And that's a dirty player who would probably do the same with or without a bounty system.

To me, players putting together a bounty system is a (perhaps hard to understand) form of camaraderie. If you go out and do your job so well you knock someone else out of the game, that's fantastic. If the bounty is incentive enough to suck it up and go out and make one more play, great. At the professional level of sport though, I can't see a bounty system making a hell of a lot of difference. These guys are going out and getting in car crashes dozens of times a game. Unless you're diving at someone's knee, is there an appreciable difference?

If the bounty system was brought in by a coach (and they are looking at it), I'd say that's much more problematic, especially when the coach is high enough up the chain of command to have influence in personnel decisions. I want to see how the NFL treats Williams: taking picks away from the Saints hurts the organization and penalizes a coaching staff that allowed such a culture to exist. But Williams isn't there any more. I'm sure they'll dock him a couple hundred grand or something, but so what? He's a coach making millions with a track record that will keep him employed for decades to come. What difference does it make? Even if they suspend him for life, within a year he'll have picked up a seven-figure contract at a big NCAA program.

Even so, I'd rather they punish the Saints a little bit and chuck Williams from the NFL if they're serious about player safety. I suppose that would invite a lawsuit though. Players they can suspend for life though. And there's nowhere for them to go: they can make some money in Canada or give the AFL/ IFL a shot, but I imagine those leagues are scared to death of angering the NFL since the NFL has suck with every single major TV network and both sports networks (given Comcast owns NBC).

This all made more sense in the shower. Now it just looks like a series of barely-connected thoughts. Apologies.

posted by yerfatma at 07:53 PM on March 03

The NFL should come down hard on anyone who is playing or coaching with an intent to injure. Yes, it's a brutal sport whose participants have long taken pride in athletes dispensing catastrophic hits on an opponent. Yes, many fans love the sport because of these hits.

But that ethos has to change as the extent of CTE brain injuries becomes more apparent.

The Williams bounties may go all the way back to Buddy Ryan. And Peter King said that Peyton Manning's neck injury may have originated in a game played against the Redskins when Williams had bounties there.

posted by rcade at 08:03 PM on March 03

While this may be a public relations nightmare for the league and they will have to act, personally I don't really see a problem with incentive pay. Yes offering a player money for knocking a player out of a game with a cheap shot or illegal hit is one thing, but what is the difference between a linebacker like Ray Lewis who on every play tries to produce snot bubbles from the noses of running backs, receivers and quarterbacks by laying vicious and perfectly legal hits on opposing players, who then in return receives huge bonuses and negotiates a bigger salary for being one of the toughest and hardest hitting LBs in the league. Seem like compensation for playing extra hard to me.

I really don't think offering a multi million dollar a year free safety an extra grand to hit viciously hard within the rules is anything more than pep talk stuff. That is what you are paying them to do and failure always means your job is in jeapordy. If you don't play all out like that, bounty or not, you don't last long in the NFL. Now if a player is encouraged to play outside the rules or make illegal hits then I would agree heavy discipline is in order. Why should the league care how a team motivates their players as long as they play within the rules? It isn't fair to players to say play hard but not too hard. Don't some contracts offer bonuses for reaching certain milestones like number of sacks etc? When I played football as a kid, a good clean hard hit that got the opposing player carted off the field was as good a play as you could make on defense. If a running back flattened and ran over a defender that was considered good football.

posted by Atheist at 11:04 AM on March 06

Kyle Turley has an opinion for some reason. ESPN columnist says Payton and Loomis should be fired. Not because of the program, but because they were exlicitly told to stop and did not.

posted by yerfatma at 12:18 PM on March 06

T. J Simers (from the L. A. Times via the Boston Herald) seems to think it's all our fault. While fans do like to see the hard hits, I feel that all but the really rabid would rather see clean and skilled play than mere brutality employed for competitive advantage.

It can be dangerous to be associated with a team encouraged to play near or beyond the edges. Retaliatory hits that take out the equivalent player from the other team are always possible. It is also very easy to take out an overzealous defender by engaging him in a block while your team mate hits him at the knees. Sure, it's 15 yards, maybe some money out of your wallet, and maybe even a game or 2 suspension, but it will get the attention of any head hunters. In this sense, it would appear that Williams was trying to encourage hard play rather than dirty play. The problem is that he seemingly has done so in a most reprehensible manner, and one that does indeed encourage players to cross the line. Things like this threaten the continued success of the NFL. The Commissioner can fine and suspend all he wants, but until the players understand that they need to begin policing themselves - not by retaliation but by playing a bit more cleanly - the problem will persist.

posted by Howard_T at 03:27 PM on March 06

I'm tired of being told that the brutality in the NFL is my fault. I don't love the game because of the excessively violent hits and cheap shots. I love the game in spite of them, and every new story about a former player suffering from CTE makes it harder to rationalize my interest.

posted by rcade at 03:30 PM on March 06

In this sense, it would appear that Williams was trying to encourage hard play rather than dirty play.

Bounties for "good hits" or "hard tackles" is one thing. Bounties for putting the other guy out of the game crosses over the hard/dirty line.

posted by Etrigan at 03:45 PM on March 06

I love the game in spite of them, and every new story about a former player suffering from CTE makes it harder to rationalize my interest.

Absolutely, blaming the fans is a diversionary tactic.

I think Kyle Turley's point from yerfatma's link is valid. If Brees was fully aware that his team was violating league policy while he was sitting on the safety committee, he should be held accountable. Hard to justify the hypocrisy of his actions.

I doubt Payton will be fired, heck I doubt he'll even be fined as it looks like Williams is going to be the fall guy on this. Williams deserves any punishment he receives, I just think others should be held accountable as well.

posted by dviking at 04:57 PM on March 06

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