By now, you've probably heard Gregg Williams' rant the night before the Saints played the 49ers in the playoffs. It is a disgusting rant from a disgusting person.
Williams exhorts his defensive players to harm the 49ers' best offensive players. He rubs his fingers together like someone offering cash when telling his guys to go for Alex Smith's chin. "Go lay that (expletive) out," he says. He is offering a bounty for knocking Smith out of the game.
He tells his players to "make sure we kill Frank Gore's head."
He refers to 5-7 Kendall Hunter as "Little 32," and says, "We want to knock the (expletive) out of him. When he's on the sidelines, we've got to run that (expletive) over, turn their coaches over, run the spectators over, go get that (expletive) on the sideline."
That sure sounds like telling his players to take cheap shots.
He says, "We need to find out in the first two series of the game the little wide receiver, No. 10 (Kyle Williams), about his concussion. We need to (expletive) put a lick on him right now." Williams had suffered several concussions prior to the game.
He encouraged his players to "take out" Michael Crabtree's ACL.
He counseled his players to wreck Vernon Davis' ankles.
And he also said this, a fair summary of his message: "Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early affect the head. Continue, touch it and hit the head."
That's a coach who told his players to take illegal head shots.
OK, we've got all that. And that leads to the main issue, one that Saints apologists, Williams apologists, and football brutalists (I made up that word) espouse: Football is a violent game and there's nothing wrong with what Williams said — except for being stupid enough to offer money and get caught. Defensive coaches say that kind of stuff — "Affect the head" — the night before every NFL game.
To which I say. No. No. No.
You'll have to take my word for this. I understand that. But I have been intimately involved with football for more than three decades. I was in Bill Walsh's night-before-game meetings at Stanford one entire season and I never heard vile talk like that. I heard about playing hard, but never inflicting concussions or going for ankles. And I never covered a team — to the best of my knowledge — with that renegade attitude. Not even the Raiders, who cultivated a renegade image.
Understand what I'm saying. The Raiders always have been more saints than the Saints, who have been anything but Saints. I'll get back to the Raiders in a moment.
Football is a sport. It is not war — even if jerks like Williams pretend it's war. It is a naturally violent game even when played within the rules, and people get hurt. Everyone understands that. But after the game, players from one side shake hands with players from the other side. Often, they pray together. These rituals mean, "We played hard. We played fair. And we are glad all of us are OK and can play again." Then the players walk off the field feeling good about the game, feeling good they did not try to maim the opponent or end his career.