When Gregg Williams (pictured) took over as defensive coordinator of the Saints, the players and media raved about the new attitude he brought to the team. Williams ran a swarming defense that got after opposing players. Little did we know he was promoting a bounty system all those years.
An NFL investigation revealed that the Saints have operated a bounty program the past three seasons — all since Williams became their defensive coordinator. As part of the bounty program, players were rewarded for knocking opponents out of the game. According to the report, the program paid players $1,500 for a “knockout” and $1,000 for a “cart-off,” with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs.
The investigation says the Saints specifically targeted former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. Anyone who watched the NFC Championship Game between the Vikings and Saints could get that sense, and the pictures of the beat-up Favre support the findings.
Team owner Tom Benson reportedly directed GM Mickey Loomis to stop the system but was unsuccessful. Coach Sean Payton reportedly knew about the system but did not stop it.
Commissioner Roger Goodell notes that the system jeopardizes player safety and competitive integrity — two key components of the league. There are also specific rules against players being rewarded for injuring opponents.
The Saints will be penalized for the bounty program and could face fines, suspensions, and the loss of draft picks. Even though the job of defenses is to stop offenses, placing bounties on opposing players goes against the spirit, integrity, and sportsmanship aspects of the game.