Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! The biggest NFL news in quite some time hit yesterday - that the Saints defense under the direction of former DC and momentary Denver head-coaching candidate Gregg Williams (and mentor to recent Broncos DC and new Oakland head man Dennis Allen) employed a bounty system funded mainly by players to reward each other for knocking out opposing players and forcing them to be carted off the field, along with less-nefarious goals like creating turnovers and scoring touchdowns.
Who else put cash into this system? A felon not employed by the team, but with a direct line of communication to Saints coach Sean Payton.
Williams, who rejoined his old boss Jeff Fisher (when both were with the Titans) in St. Louis to run the Rams defense, issued a statement yesterday acknowledging the program and taking full responsibility for it. The league's investigation found the bounty system existed throughout Williams' three-year tenure in New Orleans; as could be expected, the Redskins defense employed a similar system while the well-traveled Williams was coordinating their defense. Joe Gibbs, his boss in Washington, is claiming ignorance.
It's worth noting that between Williams's stints in Washington and New Orleans, he spent the 2008 season running the Jaguars defense for new Denver DC Jack Del Rio, then Jacksonville's head coach. As for Williams' first stint with Fisher in Tennessee, ex-Titans safety Blaine Bishop claims there was no bounty system.
The NFL had originally begun investigating the Saints after accusations they had sought out to injure Kurt Warner and Brett Favre on their way to winning the SB following the 2009 season. When the allegations were deemed unprovable, the investigation went dormant until late in the 2011 season. According to the league's findings, New Orleans owner Tom Benson ordered GM Mickey Loomis and Payton to put an end to the bounties, but they apparently did nothing to stop them.
Obviously, reaction to the news has been swift, abundant, and severe. Hilariously, former Saints safety Darren Sharper challenged the validity of the allegations, but it's a wee bit late for that. Current players offered their takes on Twitter, and the NFLPA's George Atallah says the union will make note of anyone harrassing Saints LB Jon Vilma.
Favre reacted more gracefully, telling his BFF Peter King that he's not upset to learn about the price put on his head. King says the Saints and Williams will face serious consequences, likely including fines, suspensions, and a loss of draft choices, and he agrees with John Clayton in calling this scandal worse than Spygate and saying it should result in heavier penalties than New England paid.
Similarly, Clark Judge suggests fining and suspending Williams, Payton, and Loomis, and taking away draft picks. Jason Cole thinks Roger Goodell should set the bar at several picks and hefty fines and go from there, while Mike Freeman's takeaway is that players come off looking like phonies and hypocrites relative to their outcry over player safety.
Doug Farrar says it's (of course) a given that Williams isn't the only coach who employs a bounty system, and he thinks the only proper punishment for the self-dubbed Dr. Heat would be a lifetime ban from the league.
Mike Florio thinks the Commish should come up with a penalty unique to the Saints' current roster and cap issues, such as stripping them of their franchise tag. He foresees punishments directed at Loomis, Payton, and Allen, even suggesting that a criminal inquiry could follow.
But incredibly, the word out of St. Louis at this point is that Williams will face a hefty fine but not a suspension. How come? As Bucky Brooks says (unsurprisingly), this is far from an isolated instance, and Williams is not alone.
Andrew Brandt says the scandal could go a long way toward fattening new deals for Drew Brees, Marques Colston, and Carl Nicks, as the Saints are desperately in need of some positive PR.
Did ESPN.com drop another classy headline, this time on the people of New Orleans?
Trevor Pryce says the Broncos rewarded each other for big plays but not big hits during his time in Denver. (h/t RSH)
Perrish Cox told Mike Klis he's anxious to move on with his career and life, and that he won't be back with the Broncos.
According to People, Tim Tebow and Taylor Swift are just friends.
A video of Peyton Manning throwing at Duke University yesterday hit YouTube, and ESPN confirmed it was indeed Manning in the clip. Albert Breer reports that Peyton is regaining strength in his throwing arm, and Archie Manning says he expects his son to play in the NFL this season. Manning's old coach Tony Dungy blames Gregg Williams' Redskins defense for the initial injury that started Peyton's neck problems.
Baltimore's Ray Rice, Chicago's Matt Forte, Atlanta's Brent Grimes, Washington's Fred Davis, San Francisco's Dashon Goldson, Arizona's Calais Campbell, Cleveland's Phil Dawson, and Cincinnati's Mike Nugent were all tagged; Seattle will tag Marshawn Lynch if they're unable to reach a long-term deal; A.J. Smith says the Chargers are unlikely to use their franchise tag on Vincent Jackson.
Peyton Hillis reacted with indignation in a rambling interview to reports he was considering retirement from football and pursuit of a CIA career, but his claim is only that he didn't talk to any coach about such an idea - not that he didn't consider it.
Chad Pennington is apparently helping Mark Sanchez learn Tony Sparano's offense.
Greg Gabriel evaluates the top two center prospects in the draft.
Wes Bunting doesn't quite think Dontari Poe is worthy of a top-10 pick.
Mike Lombardi explains the difference between using a franchise tag and tendering a restricted free agent.
Bill Barnwell examines the weaknesses of the players whose free agent cases he made earlier in the week.
Greg Cosell says the emergence of today's great TEs raises the importance of safeties who can cover.
Chris Brown on the melding of the shovel option and sprint-out pass.