By all rights, the bounty scandal – in which the New Orleans Saints, spearheaded by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, allegedly offered bonuses for knocking opposing players off of the games – should have dominated the airwaves in the same way Tim Donaghy affected the NBA, steroids hit MLB and the concussion epidemic hamstrung the NHL.
Yet, at the same time this bounty scandal broke, the man who might be the single greatest quarterback in the league’s history became a free agent and a hot-button free agency and draft season, dominated by two superstar college quarterbacks and kicked off, sending Bountygate down into the below-the-fold territory.
It shouldn’t rest there. Bountygate is something that needs to be addressed by the NFL, and harshly. It’s an ugly story on the surface, and even uglier when you begin to really study it. A bounty system, rewarding players for these types of damaging, career-threatening hits has absolutely no place in today’s game – not in a game where concussions and devastating injuries occur in occasions when players aren’t even aiming to injure. In this modern NFL, full of massive, freakishly athletic defensive stalwarts that hit with the force of Mack trucks, the long-term health consequences of a bounty-driven hit could be tragic on several levels.
So what should happen? The NFL needs to come down on the Saints and Williams, and hard. The penalties should be much more severe than the ones the Patriots took for the “Spygate” scandal (which now seems pretty harmless, in comparison). “Spygate” cost the Patriots one first-round pick; this should cost the Saints two. Combined with the Drew Brees contract mess and the potential loss of a few big-time free agents, this could be the equivalent of a modern-day SMU death penalty for the franchise – giving a true scare into any team that might decide to enact one of these bounty systems. Gregg Williams, the architect of the alleged system, should be kicked out of the league for a year, at the least. This sort of violation is no place for a slap on the wrist; the NFL should hit back with the force of one of its tackles.