Buddy Ryan once said Kevin Gilbride should be selling insurance. One of their colleagues at the time very well may be, soon.
Gregg Williams, who spent a decade with the Oilers/Titans before becoming the head coach of the Bills, now faces allegations of running a bounty program in a third NFL city: Buffalo.
Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reports that multiple former Bills players allege that Williams maintained such a system during his three seasons as the teams head coach, from 2001 through 2003. Former safety Coy Wire told Graham that “[t]here was financial compensation” for inflicting injury. Two other former players speaking on the condition of anonymity said the same thing.
“That’s real,” Wire said. “That happened in Buffalo. There were rewards. There never was a point where cash was handed out in front of the team. But surely, you were going to be rewarded. When somebody made a big hit that hurt an opponent, it was commended and encouraged.”
Though Wire claims he never received any payment (which may be related to potential IRS complications), Wire acknowledged that he was praised for delivering a career-ending injury during a preseason game. “I shattered [running back] James Stewart’s shoulder, and he never played again,” Wire said. “I was showered with praise for that. It’s a shame that’s how it was. Now I see how wrong that was.”
Other former Bills claim that Williams didn’t encourage players to injure opponents. Linebacker Eddie Robinson, for example, said, “I’ve seen him at every level and heard him talk in front of a lot of guys. I’ve never heard him say ‘Go out there and hurt somebody,’ and I don’t want him to get that kind of rap.”
But Robinson admitted that cash changed hands. “In football, what people don’t realize, players use money as an incentive,” Robinson said. “Me, personally, I don’t see anything wrong with guys in the meeting room saying, ‘Anybody gets the most sacks in this game gets $100.’”
The Bills deny knowledge of any type of bounty program, and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Graham that “[n]o evidence of violations at other teams” was discovered during the investigation regarding the Saints.
And that means one of two things: (1) the investigators somehow didn’t ask Williams once he admitted to running a bounty program in New Orleans where he did so elsewhere; or (2) the investigators asked, and Williams denied it.
If it’s the first one, the investigators should be fired. If it’s the second, Williams should be.
Either way, the oil slick that started just north of the Gulf of Mexico will spread to Washington and to Buffalo. With hundreds of former players now suing the league for the consequences of a career’s worth of concussions, don’t be surprised if more allegations of bounty programs emerges, with the league eventually having to turn over stones in most if not all NFL cities.