It has, as they say in the instant information age, gone viral among sports fans and the morbidly curious. Film maker Sean Pamphilon was working on a documentary on Steve Gleason, the former Saints special teams player with ALS, and he filmed Williams’ pre-game challenge. Pamphilon released the audio portion to Yahoo Sports.
At one point Williams says, “We hit (expletive) Smith right there,” pointing under his chin, and he continues “remember me.” Then he rubs his thumb against his index and middle fingers in the common sign for cash and says, “I got the first one. I got the first one. Go get it. Go lay that (expletive) out.”
The audio gets worse with suggestions of testing a 49ers running back’s concussion and taking out WR Michael Crabtree’s knee. The initial reaction among the Saints faithful was the fear that the release of Williams’ tirade, coming hours before Coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt was timed to render the appeals useless. That fear is baseless in my mind because I did not believe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in a mind to reduce the penalities anyway. What the tape has clearly done is to clarify the commissioner’s “indefinite” suspension of Williams.
Without saying a word or making a comment, Goodell now can make the indefinite suspension a definite lifetime suspension. Sean Payton’s culpability was that he did nothing to moderate Williams’ approach. One can almost picture Payton sitting in his office, with the angel of Drew Brees on one shoulder and the devil of Gregg Williams on the other. “We will outscore our opponents and win for the good of our team and city,” Brees whispers into the coach’s ear. The soothing words prompt a satisfied smile from the coach which quickly disappears when Williams, pulling a megaphone to his mouth, shouts into Payton’s other ear: “BLEEP’em! IT’S US AGAINST THE WORLD! THEY ALL HATE US! WE HATE THEM! KILL, KILL, KILL!”
Payton’s greatest offense was his failure to put a large rag into the mouth of the devil on his shoulder. He had the ability to do that, and he did not. According to the documents, Payton hired Williams with the purpose of making the defense “nasty.” Considering Williams’ record elsewhere, confirmed by the tape released today, his definition of “nasty” had various permutations but no limits.
Payton did not put limits on Williams so he must live with his year of reflection. That leaves Gregg Williams’ legacy to be debated until we all stop caring. Was he a sadistic psychopath and merely a bit deranged? Or, was he a tremendous motivator who could persuade his players to leap tall buildings in a single bound? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. What is abundantly clear, however, is that Gregg Williams is Patient Zero in a virulent outbreak that has infected the good name of a proud organization and its people.
by Jim W. Miller
Jim Miller is a former journalist (Baltimore Sun), NFL executive (Saints, Bills and Bears) and college athletic director (University of New Orleans). See Jim's unique perspective of sports and more on his website:www.JWMillerSports.com.