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Thursday, April 5, 2012
Gregg Williams has no place in NFL

By Ashley Fox
ESPN.com

Gregg Williams is done.

He should never coach in the National Football League again. Ever. End of story. End of career.

Listen to the tape that emerged Thursday of Williams, the former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator, encouraging his players to intentionally injure San Francisco 49ers players in the teams' January playoff game. It is incredibly damning. Surely, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell heard it prior to indefinitely suspending Williams for his role in the Saints' bounty program. Regardless, now Goodell will have no choice but to remove the "in" from indefinitely and suspend Williams definitely. Permanently. Forever.

There is no place in the game for Williams. There is no place in the game for purposely targeting the "outside ACL" of any player. There is no place in the game for specifically targeting the head of an opposing player with a concussion history. There is no place in the game for trying to "clip" another player's ankles.

Football, by nature, is a violent sport. We all know this. Bad things happen at the bottom of piles. Eyes get poked. Players get hurt.

Big hits will always be a part of the game, no matter how hard Goodell tries to legislate against them. The NFL isn't flag football, nor should it be. But there has to be a line. There is play, and then there is dirty, disgusting, deplorable play. Gregg Williams crossed the line. It was evident from the tape, first obtained by Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, of Williams' speech to the Saints' defenders prior to their January playoff game at San Francisco.

It was wrong on so many levels. It jumped way past coach-speak and the typical blustery, go-get-'em rhetoric. According to documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who taped Williams' speech presumably with the former defensive coordinator's knowledge and consent, Williams rubbed his thumb and two fingers together when talking about hurting Alex Smith. Money ball. Williams was paying.

This after being told to stop the bounties. This despite knowing the league was on to the practice. It went beyond arrogance. It was stupid and reckless and the epitome of hubris.

Gregg Williams wasn't going to stop. Now, he must be stopped.

It is no wonder Williams, unlike Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt, did not appeal Goodell's sanctions. For the first time in his career, he has no defense. He has no plausible explanation for his actions. What Williams did was wrong. He obviously knows it. And now he is done.

Listen to what Williams told his players. Listen to what he said about 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree: "We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fake-ass prima donna, or he wants to be a tough guy. We need to find out. He becomes human when we f------ take out that outside ACL."

Or what he said about wide receiver Kyle Williams: "We need to find out in the first two series of the game, that little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion. We need to f------ put a lick on him right now. He needs to decide. He needs to f------ decide."

Or what he said about tight end Vernon Davis: "We need to decide how many times we can bull rush and we can f------ put Vernon Davis' ankles over the pile."

Or what he said about quarterback Alex Smith: "Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head."

But, more importantly, listen to Williams' inflection, his enunciation. It isn't passion emanating from Williams' lips. It is nauseating.

Listening to the tape, I couldn't help but think about Jim Johnson, the longtime Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator who died in 2009 of melanoma. He was a masterful coordinator who loved aggressive play. He devised the most creative blitz packages and felt that as long as his defense could hold the opposition to 17 points, the Eagles should win.

Johnson was as old school as there was. He was honest and smart and real. His defense produced 26 Pro Bowlers in 11 seasons, most notably Brian Dawkins (seven), Troy Vincent (five), Jeremiah Trotter (four) and Hugh Douglas (three). It consistently led the league in sacks, third-down efficiency and red zone touchdown percentage. The Eagles' defense under Johnson was fierce and fiery and played with a swagger that came in large part from Johnson's refusal to let up on opponents.

Johnson loved to bring the house. He loved to get after the quarterback. He valued speed and aggression.

And he would have been disgusted by the Williams tape.

I've heard former and current players, including Douglas, say that if you don't want to know the realities of the game, don't look too closely. But the reality is there is a way to succeed without playing dirty, without trying to intentionally take out an opponent's ACL or hit him in the head. Johnson proved it.

Telling your defense, as Williams did, to "kill the head, the body will die," is one thing. Telling your defense to hit Alex Smith "right there" on the chin and then saying, "Remember me. I got the first one. I got the first one. Go get it. Go lay that m----------- out," is something else.

Even in football, there is a line. Williams crossed it. He should never be allowed to cross it again.