The New Orleans Saints had the entire franchise thrown off its axis more than four years ago, when the NFL suspended coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for the full season for Williams’ role in the maintenance of a bounty program during the 2009 season. For the first time since then, Williams will return to the Superdome as a coach.
“This is the first time going back down there and coaching,” the Rams defensive coordinator told reporters on Friday. “Really looking forward to it, got a lot of great memories, a lot of good feelings, a lot of good people there that I still stay in contact with.”
There may be some great memories, but the fallout arising from Williams’ effort to create an extra incentive for players who already had a reason to apply hits to opponents that rendered them incapable of continuing surely is the worst memory. Although the NFL arguably (or actually) mishandled the efforts to end this cultural reality of pro football by nailing one culprit while ignoring evidence it had happened and/or was happening elsewhere, Williams is the one person who was linked to the practice at various prior stops in his career.
As a result, there may be some hard feelings, primarily from the fans who’ll gather for the game. How does Williams think he’ll be received?
“It’s not about that, it’s about these guys playing,” Williams said. “These guys are down there, they’re ready to play. So it’s not about me.”
That may be wishful thinking from Williams. He was the clear culprit of the bounty scandal, and it’s unlikely that fans in New Orleans have forgotten about it — or that they’ll let him forget about it on Sunday.