Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sid Gillman, Gregg Williams and bounties

With so much talk in past few weeks about former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his vile pregame speech before last year’s 49ers game, former NFL player and current player-agent Ralph Cindrich penned an interesting tweet.

Cindrich played as a linebacker in the NFL for four seasons in the 1970s with the Patriots, Oilers and the Broncos, and during his tenure, he was coached by at least two legends (Sid Gillman and Bum Phillips).

Basically, Cindrich asked himself this question: if his own coaches had the opportunity, would they have overseen (and/or encouraged) a bounty program – the kind of program that led to a one-year suspension for New Orleans coach Sean Payton and an indefinite suspension for Williams? Here was his conclusion.

Regarding Gillman, I agree. One theme of my upcoming book (COMING OUT THIS SUMMER!) is that while Gillman wanted to do the right thing much, if not most, of the time, winning ultimately triumphed everything. There were instances in his career when Gillman, intentionally or not, did wrong by his players in order to win. Some decisions, I believe, he regretted. Others, he probably didn’t. If Gillman felt he could have gained an advantage by offering a bounty, I would guess that he wouldn’t hesitate to do so.

I asked Cindrich, after his initial tweet, if he was saying that Gillman HAD taken part in bounties or that he WOULD have participated, and Cindrich responded this way:

I also agree with this take.

It’s unfortunate that Gillman is no longer around to ask about this issue (christ, how many times did I say that while writing my book?). And if he had been asked, I imagine he would have denied it whether he had or hadn’t or whether he believed he would or wouldn’t.

But I’m also guessing many of his former players, and not just Cindrich, would wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that Gillman would have made the same decision as Payton. Hell, I found articles from the mid-1970s where Oilers players complained that he was putting them at extreme and unneccessary risk during practice.

I don’t quite understand that mindset – screw everything else; win at all costs – but it’s also why Gillman is such a fascinating figure to write about. Gillman, with all his greatness, still had plenty of warts. Just like Payton and Williams; just like many of the most successful pro coaches in history. Luckily for Gillman (and perhaps unluckily for me), nobody taped his pregame speeches and then slathered them on the Internet for all to see and for all to judge.

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