Alex Smith

New Orleans Saints “bounty” program didn’t accomplish much; will the NFL in response?

So the New Orleans Saints were caught for doing something many NFL teams do in one way or another? Too bad that, besides some excessive blitzing in their first preseason game against the 49ers, Gregg Williams’ motivational prizes didn’t lead to much in the way of results in 2011.

To believe that the Saints are some rogue outfit, the only ones to offer bounties for making impact plays and knocking quarterbacks out of games is beyond naive. In college, kids get stickers on their helmets. That doesn’t work in the NFL. Money works.

Still, the Saints are quickly taking over the New England Patriots’ role as the douchiest (sorry, but it works here) team in the NFL, aren’t they? The Pats still have a shirtless Rob Gronkowski dancing to LMFAO to fall back on, but the past season reminds us that a team can still be detestable even after the city it plays in experiences a devastating hurricane six years before.

I was alone on an island back in December, feeling disgusted while watching the Saints go all-out to get Drew Brees the all-time yardage record against the Atlanta Falcons … even though the Saints were up by a bajillion points and were playing at home the next week. ESPN loved Sean Payton’s unapologetic late-game playcalling, since besides the looming milestone the game was awful — like most Monday Night Football affairs. Twitter loved it, because people like to chirp about historical occurrences. But class was nowhere to be found in the Superdome that evening, and hopefully the Falcons can get their revenge the first time they face in 2012.

The Niners already got their revenge for Williams’ silly exhibition game blitz-fest. Alex Smith wasn’t knocked out of the first preseason game due to injury, and he laughed last with two go-ahead touchdowns in the final minutes of the NFC Divisional game at Candlestick Park.

The Saints needed bounties for the same reason they feel the need to blitz all the time — their defense isn’t anything special. Even with all those cornerback and safety blitzes, New Orleans finished tied for 19th in sacks in 2011 with 33. In 2010, they tied for 18th (with 33, again). In 2009, a little better: tied for 13th with 35 sacks as a team. They don’t hit or hurry QBs any more than the average team, either.

Only two teams (the Colts and Vikings) managed fewer than the 9 interceptions the Saints grabbed in 2011. Only two teams (the Raiders and Lions) allowed more yards per carry than the Saints (4.95). Williams was getting by on the reputation his team earned during their Super Bowl run, but he was actually coordinating one of the worst defenses in the NFL, one that only made it into the playoffs because Brees carried New Orleans there himself (with some help from one of the best offensive lines in the game).

Bribe and Punishment

As intimidating as Brees and the passing game can be, the defense needs all the help it can get to scare folks. Williams and Co. were stupid enough to get caught, and New Orleans is going to experience the loving discipline that only Roger Goodell can provide. It’ll probably come in the form of a huge-sounding fine that’s actually little more than a drop in the bucket to an NFL franchise, and maybe a draft pick or two. If this were the NCAA, the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl and Drew Brees’ records and awards would be revoked.

Just like the NCAA, Williams was allowed to flee the scene — heading to St. Louis and leaving the Saints behind to clean up his mess. The NFL should fine Williams, as well. Some are even calling for a lifetime ban. At this point, I think mockery is a better punishment. Hey Gregg, we used to laugh at your blitz-addiction and the extra “g” in your name. Now we know that even with cash prizes, your defense still couldn’t get anything done, and now you’re going to a team with a similar rush defense (translation: bad) and not much of a pass rush beyond what Chris Long provides.

So Goodell, we know you’re probably mad. But don’t make the Rams find a new D-coordinator; make Williams try to make the Rams into a better defensive outfit without a bounty system.

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