Reporting David Elfin
Defensive boss Gregg Williams was the Redskins’ coach-in-waiting during their 2005 and 2007 runs to the playoffs, However, not only was Williams not promoted when Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs retired in January 2008, he was fired by owner Dan Snyder.
The Redskins are just 23-41 since, but they have to feel good that Williams never became their coach now that he’s meeting today with NFL officials about allegations that he paid players for big hits that injured, or better yet, sidelined, top opponents, while serving as New Orleans’ defensive coordinator the past three seasons.
The story broke Friday and got worse for Williams, now St. Louis’ coordinator, over the weekend as former safety Matt Bowen confirmed that the coach did the same thing with the Redskins – apparently without Gibbs’ knowledge — and The Buffalo News reported that those policies also existed when Williams coached the Bills from 2001-03.
“Price tags started low during the regular season, a couple hundred bucks for going after the quarterback hard or taking a running back out below the knees,” Bowen wrote in The Chicago Tribune.
If there is any other good news in this for the Redskins — who will be part of the league’s investigation –, it’s that they’ve changed their entire coaching staff except special teams coordinator Danny Smith since Williams’ dismissal.
The only players remaining from Williams’ 2004-07 Washington defenses are linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and safety Reed Doughty as well as London Fletcher, Kedric Golston, LaRon Landry and Rocky McIntosh – all of whom can be free agents beginning a week from tomorrow.
My conversations with current defensive end Adam Carriker, a starter the past two seasons, and with Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Chris Hanburger revealed that the Redskins haven’t followed Williams’ policies since coach Mike Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett came to town in 2010 nor did they for at least most of the four decades before Williams’ arrival.
All told, Green (1983-2002), Hanburger (1965-78) and Carriker were Redskins during 36 of the last 43 non-Williams seasons. And all three said that no coach ever offered him or a teammate – to the best of their knowledge — incentives to hurt or knock an opponent out of a game. However, Carriker wasn’t surprised by the allegations that another coach had done so.
“I wasn’t shocked,” Carriker said. “It’s part of the game. You hear people talking about things like that. Probably a lot of people do that, but it doesn’t thrill me. What if I’m the guy they’re going after? That’s not something you would want.”
Green, who played his first decade for Gibbs and coordinator Richie Petitbon and continued his career under coordinators Larry Peccatiello, Ron Lynn, Mike Nolan, Ray Rhodes, Kurt Schottenheimer and Marvin Lewis, said players would talk amongst themselves before games about putting a little cash into a pool to see who could send an opponent to the sideline with a big hit, but that’s as far as that kind of thing went.
“The only time I remember there ever being a question about something dirty like that was when (late Philadelphia safety) Andre Waters went for (Washington quarterback) Doug Williams’ knees, but we weren’t even sure about that,” Green said.
Green added that even included the infamous 1990 “Body Bag” game in which coordinator (and future Williams mentor) Buddy Ryan’s ferocious Eagles defense kayoed quarterbacks Stan Humphries and Jeff Rutledge. With Mark Rypien already hurt, Gibbs was forced to play rookie running back Brian Mitchell, a college option quarterback, under center. Philadelphia won 28-14.
“Those weren’t dirty hits,” Green said of the blows that sidelined Humphries and Rutledge. “They just beat the crap out of us. They weren’t trying to hurt us.”
Hanburger, who was nicknamed “The Hangman” for his aggressive but legal neck tackles, said that causing injuries went against the grain of how he played.
“I was surprised when I heard the news because I had no knowledge of anything going on like that when I played,” said Hanburger, who called late Hall of Fame coach George Allen’s superb defenses for five years. “Heaven forbid. You’d hate to see someone get hurt. I think this whole bounty idea is ridiculous.”
Indeed, but knowing the arrogance and ferocity of Williams and reading the confirmations of the allegations by Bowen and former defensive end Phillip Daniels, the bounty idea seems like it was a sad but true reality.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.