Mike Vandermause column: Disgraced Williams best hire McCarthy never made

Mar. 9, 2012

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy must be breathing a huge sigh of relief.

What would have happened if Gregg Williams had accepted McCarthyís offer to become the Packersí defensive coordinator three years ago?

It could be the Packers, and not the New Orleans Saints, that would be awaiting potential suspensions, fines and the loss of draft picks.

McCarthy fired Bob Sanders as defensive coordinator following the 2008 season and replaced him with Dom Capers, but not before taking a run at Williams, whose controversial bounty system has landed him in deep trouble.

Williams orchestrated a reward program in which Saints defensive players received money for injuring opponents, and reports suggest he did the same thing in other NFL cities where he coached.

There can be little doubt Williams would have brought bounties to Green Bay. The Packers can thank Saints coach Sean Payton for ensuring that didnít happen.

In his search for a new defensive coordinator in January 2009, itís believed that after McCarthy failed to land Mike Nolan, who went to Denver, he set his sights on Williams.

There are indications it was a tough decision for Williams between New Orleans and Green Bay. The deciding factor reportedly came when Payton offered Williams an extra $250,000 out of his own pocket.

It was a calculated gamble that paid off almost immediately when the Saints won the Super Bowl in February 2010. The Saints eventually reimbursed Payton the quarter-million dollars, and his hiring of Williams was hailed as shrewd.

But it didnít take long for that move to blow up in Paytonís face, and it hasnít helped that Payton and Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis knew about the bounties and did nothing to stop them.

It seems unlikely Packers General Manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy would have bought into the bounty system like Loomis and Payton did. But Williams reportedly promoted bounties in other places he worked without telling his superiors, meaning the Packers still could have had a big mess on their hands.

No one should be naÔve enough to think Williams is the only coach, and the Saints are the only team, to be guilty of such a devious plot to injure other NFL players.

Who can forget former Packer Charles Martin intentionally body-slamming Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon on the ground during a regular-season game in 1986? Martin had written the numbers of certain Bears players on a towel and was supposedly bounty hunting during that game.

No evidence emerged that Martin was paid for the late hit on McMahon, which effectively ended his season. But it was a despicable act and Martin should have been suspended for life rather than just two games.

Yes, the NFL is a violent game and players are taught to knock the daylight out of opponents. But that doesnít mean they should get paid to intentionally injure fellow players or encourage cheap shots.

The Saints got caught for doing exactly that, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must mete out severe punishment and send a strong message across the league.

The Packers, meanwhile, are thankful Williams didnít come to Green Bay. As it turned out, it was the best hire McCarthy never made.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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