The term “sack” was coined by Deacon Jones who enjoyed throwing another man around and thought the devastation leveled was akin to “sacking” a city, aka pillaging and thievery. Jones was proud of inflicting pain on quarterbacks, and more proud of adding new words to the football lexicon. He’s not shy about his visceral distain for the opposition or his ruthless vengeance on the human form lining up against him. He played the game violently, unapologetically and at an all-time great level. If playing today, he’d be Terrell Suggs irreverence meets Terrell Owens mouth with a heaping dose of Ray Lewis ferocity. Think that guy needed extra motivation to take a player out of a game? He considered it a badge of honor intrinsically.
Gene Upshaw used to thickly wrap his arms in athletic tape to form a sort of cast specifically intent on bashing his opposing player in the head to render the helmet useless and the player increasingly less interested in engaging Upshaw in the hand-to-cast combat in the trenches. This is the same man who was voted to be the leader of the NFLPA through decades crafting CBAs, instituting the richest contracts the sport had ever seen and the same man who ignored the pleas from past players barely able to eek out an existence, swallowed in a shadow of a billion dollar business and unable to form a cohesive thought. Think the same type of player who voted him into office is concerned about the well-being of anyone/anything but his bank account?
Many mean men play the game of football. Many who care little about opposing players and less about their own body. Many who enjoy the violent, gladiatorial tendencies and overt release of testosterone. And many who love that they get paid to hit people.
So the problem with paying players bounties to take another player out of the game is not the additional violence. It’s like throwing a lighter into a bonfire. It’s already hot. Adding a little heat isn’t going to make a difference. The real problem is fabricating the intensity that comes naturally to the greats in hopes of motivating an average player to achieve the same level. At the core, it’s cheating.
That’s what this “BountyGate” is about. It’s about building a facade of greatness. It’s a mob-mentality set to whip a group of average players into a mindset to collect evidence of their greatness without actually getting there. It makes players believe hits rendering the opposition physically unable to compete gives them more value. Even if it’s a dirty hit. Even if it’s only one hit. Because they’re responsible for THE hit. It’s illogical. In reality, the greatest player is able to neutralize the opposition, and overtake them, not render them incapable of competing. It’s cowardly. The greats always thrive in competing against their best opposition. Pats vs. Colts wasn’t the same when it was Manning vs. Cassel.
But the bottom line is, that intensity can’t be bought. Both Jones and Upshaw are in the Hall of Fame, celebrated for their toughness, because when they played, that toughness was required to survive. It wasn’t manufactured for profit or notoriety. Yet today their methods would be seen as dangerous and archaic. The game has advanced.
But like every form of cheating, putting a bounty on another player takes the short cut. Whether steroids or SpyGate, the decision is made that the ends justify the means. The lies and cover-ups that spill out of their stories only add to the disappointing realization that the culprits are nothing more than common men attempting to achieve uncommon pinnacles relying on unethical means to do so.
Have bounties been around for decades? That’s believable. Has cheating? No question. And this form of so-called motivation is simply that. Cheating the system. Brainwashing players to focus on the results rather than the process. No bounty could have put Tracy Porter in position to catch a Peyton Manning interception and seal the Saints’ first Super Bowl victory. The required hours of film study and understanding the defensive scheme. And ultimately Gregg Williams’ defense had the talent it needed to pull off the upset. But his lack of confidence in his own teaching abilities and the natural talent of his own players induced the man to seek means beyond that of creative schemes and motivational coaching.
My hope is Goodell sees this BountyGate in the same light as SpyGate and any player that uses performance enhancing drugs and sends a message. This is just a form of cheating. Aka manufacturing results with unethical means.