Isn't America the land of second chances?
Or is it just that human beings in general deserve second chances because they're actually programmed to make mistakes?
Yes and yes.
Based on those widely accepted principals, we should be rooting for Gregg Williams.
Gregg Williams, who was always Jeff Fisher's preferred choice as DC, is expected to replace Tim Walton in St Louis. Sources— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 29, 2014
Sure, Williams was thought to have been the ringleader in the New Orleans Saints savage bounty program that captivated the nation, opened its eyes to the ruthless, barbarian nature of the NFL and gave the league a ghastly black eye.
His profanity-laden "kill the head, and the body will die" audio clip, which reportedly was recorded in the locker room before the 2011-2012 divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, sent shock waves through the media and chills down the spines of football lovers everywhere.
But like the other accessories in the Saints slush fund that rewarded players for injuring opponents—Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, Joe Vitt and Jonathan Vilma—Williams paid his debt to the NFL by serving a lengthy suspension. It began on March 21, 2012 and spanned the entire season after he was named the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator a month earlier.
Following his year away from professional football, Williams was reinstated by the league and served as a senior defensive assistant for the Tennessee Titans during the 2013 campaign.
He was on his way back.
At this point, we've almost entirely forgotten about everyone's bounty involvement who are still employed by the Saints.
Well, we still remember, but their involvement is rarely mentioned today.
However, due largely to his infamous, grisly words caught on tape, Williams has remained a villain, a real finger-pointing target.
Current and former players chimed in on the harshness of Williams' speech, and while an abundance believed he egregiously crossed the line, many didn't view it as completely out of the ordinary in a pregame, locker room setting.
I have probably heard the exact same speech since I was in ninth grade, without the targeting of guys’ specific body parts. That was kind of crazy. But I’m not surprised. People are surprised by this, to me, they have always turned a blind eye to football.
I’ve heard that speech from seven of the defensive coordinators I’ve played with in my nine-year career. Think about it, if a guy knows he’s going to get hit hard, he’s not going to come across that middle.”
Throughout the week we always knew who was injured and what body part was injured. If he’s not in the game our chances of winning are higher. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about winning.
The point is that to the overwhelming majority of apparently naive football spectators and even some former players, Williams was out of control.
But to others who'd lived the NFL lifestyle, strapped on pads and clipped chinstraps to the side of their helmets on Sundays, Williams wasn't spewing anything unprecedentedly Luciferian.
Because of that, and because he's already been appropriately punished, we should embrace Williams' reemergence in the NFL coaching ranks.
Despite the public relations chaos he caused and the indelible impact the bounty program will have on the way he's perceived by some, Williams is a pretty smart and established defensive mind—his past proves that:
|Williams As A Defensive Coordinator||Points Allowed Per Game||Yards Allowed Per Game|
|2004 Washington Redskins||16.6 (5)||267.6 (3)|
|2005 Washington Redskins||18.3 (9)||297.9 (9)|
|2006 Washington Redskins||23.5 (27)||355.5 (30)|
|2007 Washington Redskins||19.4 (11)||305.3 (8)|
|2008 Jacksonville Jaguars||22.9 (21)||330.9 (17)|
|2009 New Orleans Saints||21.3 (20)||357.8 (25)|
|2010 New Orleans Saints||19.2 (7)||306.3 (4)|
|2011 New Orleans Saints||21.2 (13)||368.4 (24)|
He'll inherit a exceptionally talented defense in St. Louis that includes defensive end Robert Quinn who totaled 19 sacks in 2013 and finished the year with the highest Pro Football Focus Pass-Rush Productivity (subscription required) among 4-3 defensive ends, a metric that tracks how efficient a player is getting after the quarterback.
Janoris Jenkins, William Hayes, Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford and Alec Ogletree are all young and promising defenders as well.
If Chris Long restructures his deal, Williams will coach quite the collection of youthful and productive defensive personnel.
To put it succinctly, Williams could work wonders with an up-and-coming Rams team in 2014 and beyond.
And that'd be a tremendous story.
Will you eventually forgive Gregg Williams?
We scorned Michael Vick for the dogfighting ring he financially stabilized, then cherished his comeback. We felt similarly about Plaxico Burress, Donte Stallworth and Tiger Woods. Before that, we initially ridiculed but ultimately forgave Bill Belichick and Kobe Bryant.
Because in America, that's how it works.
Each handled their consequences then moved on with their lives before being given another chance to flourish in their respective professions.
Remember, we're all mistake-prone human beings. Sports figures are just walking on exceptionally thin ice under the harsh microscope of the public eye.
Although society's contempt for Williams won't completely vanish next season, it'll eventually fade away. And it should.
Because Gregg Williams is the latest tale of classic American resurgence.