PALM BEACH, Fla. – On the first official day of the NFL Meetings, nothing created more of a buzz than the apparently clandestine arrival of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
There were rumors that Payton, who was suspended last week for the 2012 NFL season by commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal, arrived in a car with tinted windows and with a police escort. There was talk that he entered The Breakers resort through a back service entrance to avoid the media. Some wondered if he’d risen out of the ocean like a leviathan.
As a result, it was hard not to wonder what might have happened had the Green Bay Packers, and not the Saints, hired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely by the league for being the driving force behind the bounty program.
Williams reportedly had a bounty system in place at his previous stops before New Orleans – at Buffalo, where he was the head coach, and at Washington, where he was the defensive coordinator – and he was a finalist in January 2009 when Packers coach Mike McCarthy ended up hiring Dom Capers as his defensive coordinator.
After Capers hiring, Williams claimed that he was offered the job by McCarthy and turned it down to go to New Orleans, where Payton gave up $250,000 of his own salary to get him on board. McCarthy has never said whether or not he actually offered the job to Williams, but it’s hard not to wonder what might have happened had Williams taken over the Packers’ defense.
Payton is set to begin his suspension April 1, so his presence at the meetings has certainly been a topic of conversation. McCarthy may get some questions at Wednesday morning’s NFC coaches breakfast about Williams, but for now, he isn’t interested in the what-ifs.
“Like a lot of those questions, that’s a hypothetical,” McCarthy replied when asked what he might have had to deal with if he’d hired Williams. “I didn’t go through the hiring process, the details of it, out of respect for the people involved. Things happen for a reason. We hired Dom Capers, and we’re very happy with the way it’s worked out.”
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