What’s worse: Saints’ ‘BountyGate’ or Patriots’ ‘Spygate’?

Gregg Williams messed with players' livelihoods.

Gregg Williams messed with players' livelihoods.

Bill Belichick was hammered for taping signals.

Bill Belichick was hammered for taping signals.

The Falcons are about to get some very good news. Their primary competition in the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints, are expected to get slapped by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for a “bounty” program by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

We can’t be sure yet what the penalties will be, but the Saints are expected to lose some high draft picks. Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, likely will be suspended for several games, possibly the entire season. Both parties also will get fined — which is sort of like Goodell collecting his own bounty.

My initial thought when I heard about the bounty program actually was not one of surprise, but maybe a little disgust. I don’t condone it. I just don’t believe it’s that uncommon. We celebrate football players for hard hits all the way down to the youth level. So we shouldn’t be surprised that a coach or a player is being rewarded for it — whether it’s a pizza in Pop Warner or $10,000 in the NFL.

What NFL violation is worse?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

I might have more on the New Orleans situation in a blog later. But for now, here’s my question (which I openly admit stealing from my pal, Tim Cowlishaw, of the Dallas Morning News). In your mind, is Williams’ bounty program with the Saints worse than the New England Patriots’ “Spygate” scandal?

Both are a form of cheating. Goodell found the Patriots in violation of league rules for filming the sideline hand signals of the New York Jets in 2007. He fined Bill Belichick $500,000 (the largest fine ever against a coach), the team $250,000 and took away a first-round draft pick.

Bounties are cheating on another level — a dirtier level. If a player feels extra motivation to take a cheapshot at the opposing quarterback because he’ll be rewarded for it — and that quarterback is then carted off the field — the offending team certainly has gained an illegal edge. A case can be made that what Williams and the New Orleans Saints did actually is worse because now we’re not just talking about winning a game, we’re talking about endangering an athlete’s livelihood.

That’s why most believe Goodell will hit the Saints and Williams hard.

What are your thoughts on this? Is “Bountygate” worse than “Spygate,” and do you consider the Saints cheaters?

I’ve also posted a poll on the topic. I look forward to your thoughts on this.

By Jeff Schultz

190 comments Add your comment

Jack Wilson

March 5th, 2012
11:24 am

Nothing is worse than signing me, except for maybe my Spring Training so far!

Scott

March 5th, 2012
11:24 am

Scott

March 5th, 2012
11:25 am

Innocent Bystander

March 5th, 2012
11:28 am

Guess this answers the age old question “Ain’t Saints Taints?”

Proud Bird

March 5th, 2012
11:29 am

The expected fines couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch (Williams / Saints). Let’s hope they’re both hit very hard, and that the Falcons can take advantage of it.

tvradioguy

March 5th, 2012
11:31 am

Yes, much worse. One is a danger to the lives of opposing players. The other is not life threatening. If you want to hurt someone and have the financial incentive to do such, you might target an area of an opposing player’s body to do maximum damage. Therefore, the spirit of the good sportsmanlike conduct get’s washed away with something much more sinister.

Dave from Buford

March 5th, 2012
11:35 am

I’ve always considered the Saints cheaters, but that’s beside the point … this is considerably worse than Spygate, but I would really be surprised if it were not more widespread. In any case, we already know that there are teams and individuals who deliberately try to injure opposing players … its obvious and you see it all the time, in both the NFL and college.

Bears Fan

March 5th, 2012
11:38 am

Bounygate is much worse. I just wonder how widespread this issue is around the league.

James

March 5th, 2012
11:41 am

The Patriots were guilty of being douchebags because they cheated at a game, and they paid pretty dearly for it. The Saints thing is worse because football really is a game no longer when you are creating incentive to potentially end another man’s career.

When a player is injured accidentally, you have to accept it as part of the risk these men take (and are compensated well for). When someone is injured on purpose, it’s nearly criminal.

Big Un

March 5th, 2012
11:41 am

Now we know…if you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t winnin’…..Falcons start cheatin’!!!!!!!!!

ATL Homer

March 5th, 2012
11:43 am

WAY worse. Both are cheating, but rewarding injuries to other players is on a whole new level. You can always count on the Saints to ruin all that is good. I hope they get what they deserve on this one.

James

March 5th, 2012
11:44 am

Although the fact that Evil Bill was directly responsible for Spygate makes him personally a bad guy, the whole-team involvement of the bounty system really puts the that issue over the moral edge.

I don’t imagine many Patriot players were involved in stealing hand signals. That’s all a coaches prerogative.

BulldogBen

March 5th, 2012
11:44 am

BountyGate is way worse.

What is Dree Brees’ yearly salary? Whatever it is, that should be the fine levied against the Saints. Treat it like what they would be losing if an opponent took out Brees as part of a bounty program.

Utterly disgusting.

tonyb

March 5th, 2012
11:50 am

They both are equally bad, but my vote would have to go to Spygate. Barely. Both attack the intregrity of the game in that it affects the competitive balance of the contest.

Saying that, the NFL has to take stern action against the Saints, and any other team found guilty of a bounty system. In the Roger Goodell era of player saftety first (a position I fully support), I would expect nothing sort of severe and decisive penaties. I would not be surprised if Goodell suspends Greg Williams for the entire year.

@CRuleSportsGuy

March 5th, 2012
11:50 am

I feel the Saints’ bounty program is worse. The fact that it encourages more bodily harm, and rewards potential life-threatening injuries strikes a much deeper ethical cord than taping signals. Both are wrong, but the fallout from one is much greater (and worse) than the other in my mind.

George Stein

March 5th, 2012
11:56 am

I think it’s the bounty program, too, because it affects not just the integrity game, but the safety of the individuals playing it. It’s even more harmful now as we continue to learn the effects of concussions and long-term ramifications they bring. Spygate was a problem, but when you consider that the NFL is trying to change the culture of the game (where you aren’t a sissy or some other gay slur for getting a concussion), the bounty program is a major issue.

splendid splinter

March 5th, 2012
12:00 pm

Fine the Saints two million dollars, and two first round draft picks, the defensive coach one million dollars . Nothing less and maybe more. It is criminal and should be treated more seriously than anything that has come before it.

Mark

March 5th, 2012
12:02 pm

The SI legal expert posted on possible legal issues involving civil, criminal and tax law violations involving this case. A GM and a coach not caring out an owners orders to stop this practice. It is reported that the report is 50,000 pages and there are over 18,000 documents involved with the case and player safety is a larger focus now than when Spygate came out.. The bounty case is worse.

bucket

March 5th, 2012
12:02 pm

I’m not really sure you can call either “gate” worse than the other. They are both horrific in my mind for different reasons. “Spygate” helped the Patriots gain a competitive advantage while “bountygate” incentivized hurting opposing players. Football is a violent enough sport when it is played properly without having teams going out to intentionally knock out players and possibly end their careers. I am surprised that the players would go along with this system considering how small a time frame they know they have to make alot of money in the NFL. The strange thing was I told my wife during a Saints/Falcons game last year that I thought the Saints were playing really dirty around the pile. Unfortunately, the referees that game didn’t agree because the Saints could do no wrong and the Falcons go do no right in the eyes of guys with stripes on their shirts.

sam

March 5th, 2012
12:04 pm

To me there is no comparison between the two. The Saints were out to intentionaly hurt people and got financially rewarded to boot. I hope Goodall throws the book at them and makes it hurt them as much as they hurt other people.

sam

March 5th, 2012
12:09 pm

Just thought of an interesting baseball analogy here. Spygate was like stealing signs. Bountygate was like intentially spiking opposing players to take them out. Again, no comparison.

DP

March 5th, 2012
12:26 pm

Bountygate is far worse. Peter King’s column today has some examples of documented late hits by the New Orleans defense on Favre in a playoff game, including getting hit under the chin after a handoff early in the game. Favre says he asked his old teammate Darren Sharper what he was doing after 2 vicious hits during that game. King’s column also mentions a vicious hit by 2 Redskins on Peyton Manning in 2006, tearing his helmet off. Dungy and King ran a replay of that on NBC last season (long before this story on Williams’ defenses having bounty programs broke) and Dungy said he thought it was the hit that was the origin of Manning’s recurring neck problems, that Manning lost some feeling in his arm and almost had to come out of the game.

The Manning hit was during Gregg Williams’ tenure as DC in Washington and he had a bounty program there, apparently without the knowledge of his head coach Joe Gibbs. I presume the NFL is reviewing game tapes of Williams’ defenses during his career. If they see a pattern of vicious personal fouls against key opposing players in big games, I think they should impose a lifetime ban on Williams. How does a coach watch his players delivering potentially lethal late and dirty hits and not stop the program?

Sean Payton and the New Orleans GM should each get a year’s suspension for knowing about it and not shutting it down. They should deliver multi-game suspensions to New Orleans defensive players who were involved (running concurrently and regardless of who the players play for now) and take away draft picks. The penalties should be akin to a major probation in the NCAA, severe enough to virtually ensure that the team’s win-loss record will suffer for multiple seasons.

Oh yeah, and make everybody who has been an NFL head coach and defensive coordinator in the last decade sign an affadavit saying they have not initiated or been aware of similar bounty programs, with a penalty of a lifetime ban from the league if they are later found to be lying.

SquillDog

March 5th, 2012
12:26 pm

BountyGate and it’s not even close. My only problem is figuring out how much to ramp up my already strong hatred of the Saints.

Jimmy Crack

March 5th, 2012
12:30 pm

Bounties are dangerous ideas to be putting into the minds of beastly football players. They could result in career ending injuries of star players, and possibly death.

Spygate was simply cheating with film.

doc

March 5th, 2012
12:31 pm

bounty hunting is despicable, even though it is promoted at all levels as jeff alludes to, including pee wee leagues. football is on the precipice of being torn down by itself with the head injury law suits coming its way. this only fosters it. before long waivers will be required to play as an amateur that will maybe give people pause to think how violent and irresponsible it is and that there is real potential for serious long term injury that can only become unmasked over time. this sort of thing if handled lightly will only be one of the continuing nails in the coffin. i think the competitive balance will change quickly in the south division and the saints are going to back up for such behavior.

jeff, i think you have waaaay underestimated the relevance to ongoing legislation and the personal injury law suits that are now out there for football in the nfl and college levels. it will only sift down to where high schools and youth leagues will not be able to pay for the liability that comes with running a program along with support personnel required to make it safe down to trained emt’s and ambulance services attendant at games of all ages. this only heightens the arguments. yes i also believe it has been going on for ages but payment is coming now.

SOGADOG

March 5th, 2012
12:32 pm

Isnt paying someone to injure another person a criminal act? Williams may be in trouble with the real law.

1eyedJack

March 5th, 2012
12:33 pm

Goodell should take away their 1st round and 4th round draft picks…and give ‘em to us as compensation for whizzing on our logo. Damn Taints.

iTiSi

March 5th, 2012
12:36 pm

Actually this could easily be looked at as a type of “game-fixing”. When a player, such as a QB is injured intentionally, and goes out, or is handicapped, the outcome of the game is changed in many cases. If I were Goodell, I would hit NO hard, mighty hard, but would make Gregg Williams wish he had never heard the word “football” again. Wonder how the St. Louis Rams are feeling right about now?

iTiSi

March 5th, 2012
12:41 pm

SOGADOG, you are correct. Not long ago a hockey player was prosecuted for intentionally seriously injuring a player. Maybe some of the players who were injured in suspicious ways by the Saints, etc. will get together and file some huge lawsuits also.

PreyDawg

March 5th, 2012
12:43 pm

Here is the glaring question: Why weren’t there more flags. Any Falcon fan that watches the games at all has been screaming for years that the Saints were dirty. Despite the accusations by the Lions last year, I have not seen a Falcons lineman do something I thought was dirty since we dropped zone blocking.

But the truth is, that the NFL looked the other way on multiple late and dirty hits as well as PI calls that were blatant…why?? Because post Katrina was very good PR for the NFL. I went to New Orleans Twice to help with clean up so I am not down on helping that community. But the PR went way too far. Three years out they were still riding that wave at Saints headquarters and the NFL was along for the warm fuzzy ride.

So the Saints got ALL the calls the past three years. It says here that cost the Falcons at least two road wins against them the past couple of years.

Kramer

March 5th, 2012
12:43 pm

One was set up to cheat to win games. The other was set up to put a player out of a game for the year or his career. I think I will vote for the Saints on this one. Seems like common sense on this one Jeff. Can’t wait to see how saint’s fans spin this one.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 5th, 2012
12:46 pm

Obviously incentivizing causing injuries to other players is worse than stealing signals. But I am 100% sure the Patriots are not the only team that tries to steal signals, and the Saints are not the only team that pays bounties for hitting and injuring opposing players.

wxwax

March 5th, 2012
12:47 pm

Paying a player to disable another player is unconscionable. Doing in Goodell’s NFL is stupid.

As Coy Wire said, you just don’t mess around with head injuries.

Schultz, don’t forget Mickey Loomis in all this. He flat-out lied to the NFL about the bounty program. And then he disobeyed his owner’s order to get rid of it. He’s an arrogant man. I hope he gets a long vacation too.

DP

March 5th, 2012
12:47 pm

If the ownership and management of the St. Louis Rams has a lick of sense, they won’t even wait for the conclusion of this investigation to fire Gregg Williams as DC. He’s already admitted to the bounty program in New Orleans and said he knew it was wrong but didn’t stop it. I doubt he put the bounty program on his resume or talked about it in his interviews with St. Louis. The Rams don’t need potential problems with the league for employing Williams or the hassle of replacing him for some suspension period. Just fire him now.

meh

March 5th, 2012
12:50 pm

bounty gate is way worse. the Patriots were just cheating. the saints were trying to injure people. williams and payton should be fired and any other coach that was a part of it shhould be fired as well.

5150 UOAD

March 5th, 2012
12:58 pm

SPYGATE was CHEATING………….BountyGate is just dirty. Players HAVE to HIT each other to play the game and people will get hurt.

Mike

March 5th, 2012
1:01 pm

If Goodell is serious about player safety then he’s gonna have to bring the hammer down. This isn’t just about winning a game, this is about ending careers.

5150 UOAD

March 5th, 2012
1:01 pm

The NFL Hall of Fame is full of players that did some form of Bounty/Head Hunting. Butkus, Ed TooTall Jones, and Ronny Lott.

DP

March 5th, 2012
1:02 pm

I just read an interesting column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which notes that Williams was DC for Jeff Fisher, now the Rams head coach, at Tennesee and they have a very close relationship and the same approach to football. The columnist asks how Fisher could fire Williams without firing himself. According to the column, over a decade, the Titans led the NFL in every kind of personal foul and late hit penalties. Tony Dungee, whose Colts played in the same division with the Titans, has said for years that he thought the Titans had a bounty program.

So if Fisher’s Titans played against a Williams coached defense on another team, did they have a no bounty agreement, or did Fisher put his offensive players on the field knowing that the other defense would take every opportunity to injure them with plays outside the rules?

what of it?

March 5th, 2012
1:07 pm

I think intentionally inflicting physical injury is a little worse than stealing signs. At least no one’s career is threatened with the latter.

JJ12

March 5th, 2012
1:08 pm

I can’t believe this is even a question. Spygate was way overblown when it happened. Most don’t relaize that the Patriots where penalized because they ignored a rule, the taping in and of itself could have been legal if done correctly. This whole bounty thing is lowe than low.

Andy

March 5th, 2012
1:11 pm

I think the NFL will make an example out of the Saints. The way they emphasize player safety and health, they can’t let this go with a slap on the wrist. The will get the nuclear bomb and I hope they choke on it.

LawDawg

March 5th, 2012
1:12 pm

Is there any indication that the bounties did/did not apply to cheap shots or just clean hits?

I find this to be mostly a non-story and I imagine that most players already have a financial incentive to make nasty hits if they can (media exposure leading to bigger contracts and/or endorsement deals, or simply higher name recognition for someone near the bottom of the bench and more playing time). People watch the NFL for big hits. Guys like Ronnie Lott are in the Hall of Fame for destroying anyone who came over the middle. There is plenty of incentive to put a hard hit on someone without a small bounty (small by NFL salary comparison).

This is just some junk to spill a lot of ink by bored-to-tears sports media who otherwise would have to cover the NBA or NHL. If this came up during the season, it would barely merit attention.

Andy

March 5th, 2012
1:13 pm

I am also tired of the city of New Orleans feel good story Saints lifting spirts “Who Dat” BS. Get over it. The Saints are a bunch of thugs and dirt bags.

LawDawg

March 5th, 2012
1:14 pm

what of it?: The entire existence of the NFL is for players to intentionally inflict physical injury on each other. I fail to see where the bounty program adds much extra incentive when you already want to knock a guy out of the game every time you hit him.

5150 UOAD

March 5th, 2012
1:19 pm

If you don’t want to get fed to the LIONS in the Coliseum then don’t be a Christian Martyr.
If you don’t want to get shot by Drug Dealers then do be a Cop.
If you want to make average money, use your education, and not risk bodily harm then don’t get rich, risk injury, and live for the roar of the crowd by playing football.

Not trying to inflict injury during a football game while winning is like not trying to kill the enemy and still win the war.

Bryan G.

March 5th, 2012
1:22 pm

I think Spygate is worse because it actually involved the Pats trespassing at other teams’ practices. This issue with the bounties is (a) probably widespread and (b) frankly just incentivizes something that teams were doing anyway. You think James Harrison, et. al. aren’t already trying to knock QBs out of games with or without a bounty?

JJ12

March 5th, 2012
1:25 pm

This is how the uninformed spread wrong information, the Patriots where never at other teams practices. The was a rumor started by a boston paper which was later retracted. Spygate is the most overblown witch hunt in the history of sports.

Larry

March 5th, 2012
1:28 pm

Jeff,

Please tell me you’re joking!

One involves a camera while the other involves a deliberate, calculated, compensated and predetermination to maliciously injure or maim another human being. This is like asking if a perjury or forgery is more serious than a rape or aggregated battery!

Come on, man!

5150 UOAD

March 5th, 2012
1:28 pm

lets just get teams full of Deion Sanders as players. All Speed and nobody will ever get hit again.