The Cleveland Browns are reportedly making a change at defensive coordinator, and they’re seeking big names to take over the job.
Alex Marvez of the Sporting News and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported Friday that the Browns will be parting ways with defensive coordinator Ray Horton and have reached out to the likes of Gregg Williams and Wade Phillips to take over.
#Browns have not have fired Ray Horton yet. It's been discussed for a few days. Could happen soon.
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) January 6, 2017
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) January 6, 2017
Further reports indicate that Williams, currently the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams, is the clear favorite.
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) January 6, 2017
Would be very surprised if Gregg Williams is not the next defensive coordinator of the Browns
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 6, 2017
This may be an indication of owner Jimmy Haslam’s power. Previous reports indicated that Horton had coach Hue Jackson’s backing. If he’s out, it may be because it was forced on Jackson.
Sean Payton carried a little extra motivation with him into Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. If you didn’t know that at kickoff, you realized it when the New Orleans Saints coach ran a trick play for a touchdown that opened up a 49-21 lead in the fourth quarter.
Still not enough to convince you? Perhaps the cryptic tweet Payton sent following the game that featured the song “Circle of Life” will seal the deal.
— Sean Payton (@SeanPayton) November 28, 2016
As you may know, Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams held the same job title under Payton from 2009 through 2011. Williams was found to be the man in charge of putting bounties on opposing players, and the scandal that became known as “BountyGate” resulted in Payton being suspended for the entire 2012 season.
Saints players knew Sunday’s game meant a little more to their coach.
“It does, it means something. There’s more there. So, good for Coach,” offensive lineman Zack Strief said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “I didn’t see anything out of him, necessarily. I just know better. The message all week was, ‘Our back’s against the wall. … There’s no room for error.’ At no point did he ever say or act differently that I could see. But I’ll be honest for him and say there’s no way [it didn’t matter].”
“[Payton] was fired up,” safety Kenny Vaccaro added. “We all know why.”
Payton was never really caught red-handed with BountyGate, whereas disturbing audio clips like this one clearly implicated Williams. If Payton had as little knowledge of the bounty system as he claims he did, you can understand why he was out for revenge.
The Tennessee Titans defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars rather handedly in the 1999 AFC Championship Game. The Jags jumped out to an early 14-7 lead before it was all Titans in the second half. Tennessee went on to score 26 unanswered points and cruise to a 33-14 victory. Former Jacksonville defensive end Renaldo Wynn has an explanation for the halftime adjustments.
On Friday, Wynn told Mike Meltser and Seth Payne on Sports Radio 610’s MaD Radio that then-Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had literally obtained a copy of the Jaguars’ playbook prior to the game.
“You know why we fell short in that AFC Championship game?” Wynn asked, via CBS Houston. “After that I ended up getting coached by Gregg Williams. And Greg Williams was, at the time, defensive coordinator by the Tennessee Titans. First thing he said when he came in the door was ‘Hey, you know why you lost?’ With a lot of other explicit words with that. He said he had our play book. Greg Williams had our play book. Our game-plan on offense. [He] had our playbook.”
Wynn later played for the Washington Redskins when Williams was defensive coordinator there, and he told the hosts that Williams acquired other teams’ playbooks as well. He would not elaborate on how Williams allegedly got them in his possession.
“I’m sorry Gregg, I had to put you out there,” Wynn said. “You can’t go no lower than what you’ve been already.”
Williams, who was just hired as DC for the St. Louis Rams, certainly can go lower. There may be nothing worse than being caught on audio tape urging players to target the knees and heads of opponents, but stealing playbooks would be up there. If there is proof — and I’m not sure how there would be — Williams could find himself in a lot of trouble yet again.
Just when you thought the allegations from the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal could not get any crazier, we get a further glimpse into just how carried away former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams may have gotten. On Monday, The Times-Picayune obtained a copy of assistant coach Joe Vitt’s Dec. 3 bounty appeals hearing testimony in front of NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. It was quite revealing.
During Vitt’s testimony, he categorized Williams as someone who has a tendency to exaggerate but insisted the players and coaches knew of his “schtick” and “false bravado” and rarely took him seriously. Vitt said that Williams not only offered to reward players for injuring opposing players, but that he also offered to pay them if they intentionally knocked down or took out the knees of opposing coaches who were standing on the sidelines.
Vitt said that he made sure the players knew such behavior would not be tolerated, and that no one on the team ever took Williams up on his ridiculous offer.
“If our players went out and performed what came out of Gregg Williams’ mouth, and it went from his lips to their ears, and then it went to the performance, we would have people in jail right now ma’am,” Vitt told NFL attorney Mary Jo White. “We would have people in jail right now.”
When you listen to some of the audio from Williams talking to his defense before a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, you get a sense of what Vitt is talking about. The details of who participated in the bounty system and to what extent will likely always remain foggy, but it’s pretty obvious that Williams was the driving force behind much of it.
H/T Eye on Football
If Gregg Williams was hoping a return to the NFL is in his future, the audio clip that is making the internet rounds on Thursday will do nothing to help his case. We have heard the rumors and stories about Williams telling his players to target particular body parts, so none of this should come a shock and much of it is just locker room banter. It will, however, make Williams look even worse in the eyes of Roger Goodell.
The following audio clip features language that is extremely NSFW, but is definitely worth a listen if you want to know the type of stuff that Williams said to his defense prior to games. The clip, which was shared by Yahoo! Sports, was recorded by documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon. Pamphilon directed the “Run Ricky Run” documentary that was featured on ESPN. He had access to some Saints team functions during the 2011 season and recorded the audio the night before the playoff game between the Saints and Niners. It provides pretty clear evidence that Williams wanted his players to target Alex Smith’s head and Michael Crabtree’s ACL, among other disturbing demands. Have a listen:
As is the case with any other major sports scandal, the opinions about Bountygate are rolling in at a rapid pace in the wake of the news breaking on Friday. Some are outraged while others consider bounties on opponents to be a part of the game. Not surprisingly, Charles Barkley is a member of the latter group. Not only that, but Barkley is outraged that someone would even come forward and rat out Gregg Williams.
“You have to be a punk to snitch that out,” Barkley said Monday on the Dan Patrick Show, according to Pro Football Talk. “That’s like giving a reporter an anonymous quote. That makes you a punk, if you do anonymous, but also, you don’t bring that out x amount of years later. I mean you don’t compete in it if you don’t want to be in it. But I’ve seen at least three or four well-known NFL players say all teams have bounties. So I’m glad they came to Gregg Williams’ defense. Because I’m pretty sure all teams have that.
“In the heat of an NFL game, when guys are trying to make tackles, you’re always trying to hit the guy as hard as possible. I think you always want to knock the best players out of the game. I want to get Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady out of the game. That’s better for my team. Do I want to hurt them? No, but I want to hit them hard. That’s better for my team.”
Tony Dungy believes Gregg Williams‘ bounty system targeted Peyton Manning as far back as Williams’ tenure as defensive coordinator for the Titans from 1997-2000, and possibly again with the Redskins in 2006.
“I know they had them in Tennessee,” Dungy said in a text to Pro Football Talk. Although Williams reportedly had a bounty system in place during during his time in Washington, Dungy added he wasn’t sure whether bounties were offered when the Redskins injured Manning during a game over five years ago.
Dungy said during a Football Night in America broadcast last year that he believed Manning’s neck problems may have started with a hit by former Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels in 2006. Williams was the Redskins’ defensive coordinator at the time. Manning was shaken up on the play, which wdid not draw a flag but resulted in a $5,000 fine for Daniels.
The allegation that Williams’ bounty system may have sparked Manning’s neck problems is very significant but, for now, still unfounded. Then again — just speculating here — if Williams acknowledged having a pay-for-play system with the Saints, and another coach claims Williams had one with the Titans, why should anyone believe he didn’t do the same during his tenure in D.C.?