Gregg Williams is indefinitely suspended and may never coach in the NFL again. If his coaching career is over, many of his former Saints players say, it will be the NFL’s loss.
Although Williams has been cast as the primary villain in the Saints’ bounty scandal, Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that in the Saints’ locker room, Williams is still a popular, well respected man.
“People are going to say I’m wrong for saying this, but he’s good for this league,” linebacker Scott Shanle said. “My concern is the NFL will be missing out on a fantastic coach if they keep him out of this league.”
Shanle also said that he doesn’t believe Williams’s conduct was outside the norm for an NFL coach.
“This is going to sound like an excuse, and people don’t want to hear an excuse — that type of language is not just Gregg Williams,” Shanle said. “It goes on in a lot of locker rooms around the league. No one took him literally. It was a way to get you to play fast, violent, nasty and together. Not every coach coaches like that, and they’ve had success. But for Gregg Williams, and his personality and what he brings to the table, it fit the identity of his defenses. I’m really hoping this isn’t held against him wherever he is.”
Obviously, the Saints’ bounty scandal is already being held against Williams. But it’s hard to find any of his former players who think it should be. Saints safety Roman Harper says it was an honor to play for Williams.
“Gregg was a great coach and a great motivator,” Harper said. “You love playing for him. You probably hate playing against him. That’s just the way he is. He coached the game the way it’s supposed to be coached, and let you play the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said he believes the high opinion of Williams is unanimous among his former players.
“I don’t think you’ll hear anybody that has ever played for him throw him under the bus,” Jenkins said. “He played a pivotal role in my career and learning the game of football. What I do on the field is a direct reflection of his coaching.”
According to the league office, one of the most egregious offenses ever committed in the NFL was a reflection of Williams’s coaching. But that’s not how his former players see it.