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Last week the NFL world exploded when Roger Goodell levied penalties on the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for their participation in a multi-year bounty system. As part of that report the NFL also announced that the Saints had targeted four quarterbacks — Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers, and Cam Newton. Notice anything about this list? Kurt Warner and Brett Favre were both quarterbacks during the Saints 2009 Super Bowl run. The Saints beat up both of these quarterbacks, knocking them out of the game, partly as a result of the bounty system.
But punishing Warner and Favre didn’t win the Saints a Super Bowl.
They had to beat Peyton Manning.
And Peyton Manning’s name is curiously absent from the NFL’s bounty report.
I think the NFL is covering up the fact that there was a bounty on Peyton Manning because the league wants to protect the legitimacy of the Saints Super Bowl win over the Colts and prevent fans from drawing a direct connection between the bounty system and a quarterback injury.
Ask yourself this, why would Gregg Williams abandon the bounty system when it had already been so successful that it had led his team to the Super Bowl? Wouldn’t the players and coaches have demanded that the bounty system continue? If you’d already broken the rules to get to the championship game, would you stop breaking them before you’d actually won the biggest prize?
That doesn’t make any sense, does it?
Especially when the NFL made explicit findings of a bounty system in the first two playoff games preceding the Super Bowl: “In the January 16, 2010 divisional playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saints defensive players were assessed $15,000 in fines for fouls committed against opposing players. The following week, in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saints defensive players were assessed $30,000 in fines for four separate illegal hits, several of which were directed against quarterback Brett Favre.”
But why was there no mention of a bounty system in the Super Bowl?
And is there any evidence that one did exist? Yes, there is. And it’s taken me a long time to actually pull the audio, but Williams essentially admitted to the bounty system existing for the Super Bowl in an interview he gave our 3HL radio show
Specifically I asked Williams about personal fouls in light of the league’s penalties for the Favre hits. Williams’s response is amazing in light of what we now know about his bounty system.
Williams’ answer to my specific question about whether or not he was going to change the way his team was playing in light of personal foul penalties for late hits on Favre and the resulting fines, is particularly illuminating.
“I’m not going to worry about that and here’s the deal. When you put too much of that type of worry on a warrior’s mind, he doesn’t play all out. If it (personal foul on Peyton Manning) happens it happens. The only thing you’d like for me to say is if it happens you hope he doesn’t get back up and play again.”
Read this chilling last sentence again now that we know the bounty system was in place.
“The only thing you’d like for me to say is if it (personal foul on Manning) happens you hope he doesn’t get back up and play again.”
Now that we know about the bounty system doesn’t that sound like an explicit acknowledgment that Williams didn’t plan on changing anything at all about the way his defense was playing?
And if Williams wasn’t planning on changing anything at all about his defense, that means he wasn’t going to change the method that had gotten his team to the title game.
Bounties were still going exist in the Super Bowl and a bounty on the quarterback was a central part of that defensive philosophy.
The NFL doesn’t want this story out there because if Williams clearly cheated to win a Super Bowl then it calls in to question the legitimacy of that game. Plus, and this is key, Peyton Manning is the league’s superstar quarterback whose injuries kept him from playing last year. None of the four quarterbacks named in the NFL investigation actually missed significant play because of injuries incurred on the field as a result of the bounty system. Manning did. And Tony Dungy for one has already drawn a direct connection to Manning’s injury stemming from an illegal hit delivered by a Gregg Williams defense back in 2006.
Dungy said of the hit: “But now, as I look back on it, there’s no doubt in my mind that this was the start of his neck problems.”
Can you connect the dots to Gregg Williams’s bounty system directly impacting the health of a star quarterback and the biggest game on the American sports calendar?
I think you can.
But the NFL certainly isn’t making this explicit connection.
How can we make the connection to a bounty existing on Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl?
Because we know a bounty system existed for the two playoff weeks leading up to the Super Bowl and then Gregg Williams told us that he wasn’t changing anything even after league penalties.
“The only thing you’d like for me to say is if it (personal foul penalty on Peyton Manning) happens you hope he doesn’t get back up and play again,” Williams said.
Does this sound like the words of someone who was calling off a successful bounty program for the Super Bowl?
Sure as hell doesn’t to me.
Based on its public findings the NFL wants you to believe that happened. Or it wants you to not realize that the bounty system was in place during the Super Bowl. That’s the only reason the NFL hasn’t explicitly acknowledged there was a bounty on Peyton Manning and it’s the only reason it hasn’t also acknowledged that a bounty system was in place in the Super Bowl.
Williams’s direct words at that time tell us otherwise. He wasn’t changing anything for the Super Bowl. he was still telling his team to knock out quarterbacks with illegal personal foul penalties.
The Saints bounty system on Peyton Manning was definitely in place for the Super Bowl.