Column by Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich
Andrew Wyrich

I know I’m a few weeks late on this, but I need to express my opinion about the recent allegations that the New Orleans Saints and their Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams were running a bounty program that specifically targeted certain players over the course of the past few seasons.

This is a disgrace to the game.

As someone who has grown up watching, writing about and loving sports, I can’t help but feel sickened at the response some have had to this travesty.

I’ve heard from friends and students that this is not an issue because of the violent nature of football. In a game where large hits are highlights on “SportsCenter” and the ultimate goal is to win a game at any cost, some believe the team promoting a tougher game should not be scolded.

People who believe that clearly don’t understand the undeniable and essential aspect of respect that permeates every sport.

When a team’s players and coaches actively encourage their peers to physically harm and have the potential to cause career-ending injuries to their opponents while being rewarded upwards of $10,000 for “cart-off’s” and other disturbingly named bounties, the line between what is acceptable and downright barbaric is crossed.

The NFL has charged that between 22 and 27 Saints members participated in the bounty program for upwards of three seasons. These disrespectful tirades would include Williams holding up white envelopes filled to the brim with greenbacks in front of his players while chants of “Give it back! Give it back! Give it back!” would engulf the room. Sounds to me Williams was coaching a cult rather than a football team.

Sports demand respect — any coach will tell you that. Not only do these bounties violate NFL rules and bylaws, but how far have we fallen as a culture where we are not outraged by such a vile, egregious act? Williams and those who knew of the bounty program created an army of mercenary gun-for-hires — not players.

The fact the NFL has yet to completely pummel the Saints with restrictions and consequences is a bit hyper critical, considering Commissioner Roger Goodell has made his legacy on promoting player safety. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, Williams and any players involved should be fired or suspended, and the team should revoke at least one of their first round picks in upcoming drafts. If the Patriots were penalized for cheating, how can the Saints not be placed under severe consequences for something involving life and death?

The Saints don’t pick until the 59th choice in the draft, after they traded their 2012 first-round pick last year to the Patriots, so I would implore Goodell to take not only that pick, but their first round pick in 2013. Send a message: stand by what you supposedly believe.

Williams in particular, who was once heralded as one of the most brilliant defensive minds in the game, should not be allowed to step foot on an NFL field again. The NFL’s investigation has revealed that this is not the first time Williams has been connected to pay-for-performance bonuses. While he was head coach in Buffalo and defensive coordinator in Washington, players have said targets were chosen for big games.

In the end, anyone who truly respects the competition and integrity, not only of football, but sports in general, should be outright horrified at the actions the Saints and their coaches encouraged and should demand the severest of punishments. This is a game, not a war.