The league may have been aware of audio from Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, taken from comments made the night before the Saints faced the 49ers in the 2011 divisional playoffs. But the public wasn’t.
And now that the public is, the chances of Williams ever coaching again in the NFL have surely plummeted.
Technically, Williams has been suspended for the 2012 season, and his status will be reconsidered after the season ends. The league has announced that Commissioner Roger Goodell “will give close attention to the extent to which Coach Williams cooperates with the NFL in any further proceedings,” which presumably means that the league will be asking Williams to testify at the appeal hearings filed on behalf of the players who inevitably will be suspended. (There’s also a chance Williams shows up and testifies at Thursday’s appeal hearings.)
This means that, to secure Williams’ full cooperation during the hearings, he must believe that he has a chance to be reinstated. Even if, as a result of the audio, he doesn’t.
The fact that the Rams haven’t fired him (yet) adds to the allure of the carrot that will entice Williams to testify, even if such testimony against players results in players not wanting to play for him. But how can the Rams continue to keep Williams on the books in light of the things he said in January 2012, when he knew that the NFL once again was investigating the team’s use of bounties?
Two weeks ago, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said that he wouldn’t have hired Williams if Fisher had known about the looming suspension. At the time, few supplied the obvious response: Now that you know, why haven’t you fired him?
That question could become even more prevalent now, and it’s harder than ever to imagine anyone ever hiring Williams to work in the NFL again.