Gregg Williams hides behind a technicality

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Dirty is in the eye of the beholder.

When Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams insists that he doesn’t coach “dirty” play, Williams relies upon a specific definition of the term. He’s saying he doesn’t coach illegal hits or behavior that goes beyond the boundaries of football.

But Williams does indeed have a history of encouraging players, while staying firmly within the rules (or at least trying to), to attempt to apply clean, legal hits that incapacitate opponents. He also has a history of establishing and maintaining programs for paying players extra money as a reward for rendering an opponent unable to continue, through clean, legal hits.

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Williams’ involvement in the Saints’ bounty scandal resulted in his banishment for the 2012 season, and it also got him sued for injuries inflicted on former NFL linebacker Barrett Green during Williams’ time in Washington. Indeed, after the bounty story first emerged more than seven years ago, accounts of Williams utilizing bounties popped up from pretty much every team he ever worked for.

Then came his voice on tape, captured in a team meeting as part of a Steve Gleason documentary. As the Saints prepared to play what would be Williams’ last game with the team in the 2011 postseason, Williams urged players to apply a “remember me” shot to the chin of 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, to target the head of 49ers running back Frank Gore, to attack the knee of 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, and to “find out” about the concussion that had been suffered by 49ers receiver Kyle Williams.

“Kill the head and the body will die” was Williams’ mantra, and he somehow ended up back in the league.

So by saying he didn’t coach dirty play in Cleveland or elsewhere, Williams sidesteps the question of whether he encouraged players to target then-Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before a 2017 preseason game. Beckham’s claim that Browns players admitted this to him becomes the most significant aspect of this unexpected-but-not-surprising kerfuffle, and Williams’ effort to quickly turn the page should not prevail.

What did he say to the Browns before that preseason game? Did he encourage them to hit Beckham low? Because former Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun did, and it injured Beckham.

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