Plenty of perspective on the Gregg Williams’ situation has been lost in the last month or so.
There’s been a ton of overreaction. Add Fran Tarkenton, the Hall of Fame quarterback, to the list of those who haven’t been able to take the news in the proper context.
Tarkenton told WMVP-AM 1000 in Chicago that he believes Williams, the disgraced former defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, should be, get this, thrown in jail. Yes, Williams operated an out-of-control bounty system as the defensive coordinator of the Saints. But Tarkenton and anyone else taking this approach will have trouble finding anything criminal here. Unsportsmanlike? Absolutely. Despicable? You bet. Worthy of even time in the courts system? No.
“He should be banned forever. He ought to be convicted. He ought to go to prison,” Tarkenton said, per SportsRadioInterviews.com.
“It's all wrong. But I don't blame the (Saints) players, because as players we are told, and we are brainwashed — not in a bad way — from the time that we started playing football as kids, your coach is your leader. Listen to your coach. He's the one you look up to. He's the one who's going to tell you the truth. He's the one that's going to make you better, and you can trust him.
“So if your coach tells you to go out and do all these things, and you're a 25-, 26-, 27-, 28-year-old kid, you get caught up in the emotion of the time, and you do it and say, 'That's OK.' You don't think about it because we don't think much when we are in our 20s.”
Tarkenton made a point of noting this didn’t happen in the 60’s and 70’s when he played. But players were still trying to knock the quarterback into oblivion, just like Williams’ Saints players were.
“The players I talked to from my generation are outraged about it. We didn't play with bounties,” Tarkenton said. “Dick Butkus didn't have bounties on anybody, or there wouldn't have been anybody to play because he would've killed them all. This is nonsense.
“Now I hear these ex-jocks, modern ex-jocks, (saying) back then, 'Ah, this is the way it is in football, this is just the way things are.' And now I'm hearing some of the same stuff from the ESPN jocks doing that. The American people should be outraged. This is not the way it is. That's not what the foundation of football was about.
“I got a YouTube video of when Peyton Manning's neck got hurt the first time because he had a bounty on him by Gregg Williams where someone hit him low and another guy hit him around the head and twisted his neck. It was unbelievable. That's where it started.
“That would trickle throughout the league. That would trickle down to college, down to high school football. The American public should be outraged at this, and I know Roger Goodell is outraged because if this spreads, this sport is dead.”
Tarkenton makes some solid points. But he hasn’t come up with one criminal element to be considered.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune