Jeff Fisher hired Gregg Williams from the Saints to mold the porous Rams defense into a ferocious, hard-hitting unit.
What he bought instead was a world of grief.
“Bountygate” left a big stain on the NFL and some of it splashed onto the Rams on Wednesday. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Williams indefinitely for coordinating a bounty system in New Orleans.
“Not a good day for the National Football League,” Fisher said at a Wednesday news conference.
This scandal broke not long after the Rams hired Williams as defensive coordinator.
“Had we known about this, would we have hired him? Absolutely not,” Fisher said.
“We hired Gregg because of his ability. He is very, very talented. Wherever he has been, he has put up great defenses year after year.”
The Rams had no inkling the scandal was brewing when the franchise made the hire. Neither, apparently, did Williams.
“It came as a surprise to him when he was summoned to New York,” Fisher said. “He went to New York not knowing what to expect.
“The last few weeks have not been easy on him. He is . . . shocked, disappointed, also remorseful.”
Goodell was appalled that the Saints systematically rewarded defensive players for various actions – including knocking offensive opponents out of games with big hits.
And Goodell was furious that Williams and others lied to him about the practice after complaints about this odious practice first arose.
“This went on for three years and it was investigated we were misled, there were denials throughout that period,” Goodell told NFL Network's Rich Eisen. “Clearly, we were lied to. We investigated this back in 2010. We were told it was not happen and it continued for another two years.”
Once the NFL proved that bounties were paid, Goodell came down hard.
“A very, very strong message was sent by the commissioner today,” Fisher said.
Goodell gave Saints head coach Sean Payton a stunning one-year suspension without pay. Goodell banned New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games) got banned for shorter periods.
Williams, the would-be defensive coordinator for the Rams, must sit out at least the 2012 season. At some point next year Goodell will decide whether to reinstate him or extend his ban.
Could this be a death sentence for Williams’ career? Perhaps, because Goodell is really, REALLY disturbed by what he learned.
Even if Williams returns at some point, he will wear the scarlet letter the rest of his career. Imagine if he returns as defensive coordinator and his unit knocks out a star player with a big hit.
How would that play in the media?
Meanwhile, the Rams will try to move on. Williams’ reign as coordinator halted almost before it started.
Fisher’s other hires included former coordinators Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil. They will work together to implement the system that Fisher originally devised.
“I’m not going to name a defensive coordinator,” Fisher said. “Most likely it will be a collective effort.
“We’ve got a very talented coaching staff. We’ll get the job done. This is a defense that is very intellectually challenging. We will get the job done.
“It’s the NFL. Sometimes you have to adjust. We are prepared to adjust.”