Listening to the Gregg Williams audio to his players the night before they played San Francisco put an emotional charge into me and filled me with a darkness only Edgar Allen Poe could understand. I haven't felt that melancholy in a long, long time.
The man is good at what he does…or did. Most likely, Gregg Williams will never coach in the NFL again.
Pregame speeches before games are stuff of legend. From Knute Rockne's "hit ‘em high, hit ‘em low, fight, fight, fight" speech to Jim Hanifan's "I want 45 Rambos out there tonight," pregame speeches (Saturday night or Sunday) serve a very important purpose: they set the tone for a game. And that's exactly what Gregg Williams did.
Before I continue, I have a confession: I played the game of football wanting to damage my opponent. Although I never once thought of injuring my sworn enemy, I wanted to hurt him. As a football player, after a big hit, it doesn't get much better than stepping over your opponent when he's wheezing on the ground with the taste of blood in your mouth. This was the best thing about the game: tapping into the primal side we all possess.
But I never wanted to injure my opponent. I had too much respect for him. And this is where Gregg Williams and his pregame speech went awry.
I have heard fire and brimstone speeches that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush. I have heard coaches lose it and witnessed coaches lose their minds and say vile things about the other team and what we were going to do to them; and I was the first to second the motion. When it comes to being physical on the gridiron, I have heard coaches speak the unspeakable, mention the unmentionable and vow under moon and sky how we were going to brutalize our opponent.
But this was different, wasn't it Mr. Williams?
Gregg Williams made it personal. He called players by name and mentioned body parts and specific injuries such as the ACL, the head (concussion) and ankles. Gregg Williams' message became caustic and unique only when he started speaking about players and injuries. Players…injuries…
And this is where my emotions get the best of me and my pride swells. Suddenly, I am no longer fat and 49; through some miracle of memory I am transported back to a time when I was young, capable, determined. Hearing Gregg Williams get specific about players and the injuries they were playing with filled me with rage.
Who is this tough guy? Who is this man that played at Northeast Missouri State University? Who is this man from the Craven Clan that ordered his players to try and injure their bloodsport brothers? Who is this…coward? What price has he paid?
Edgar Allen Poe once said "there can be no true genius without a touch of madness." Gregg Williams has been called a genius, a defensive mind without equal. Maybe Poe was right, maybe not, but the commissioner of the NFL cares little about the cause of Gregg Williams' madness. It's the affect Roger Goodell is most concerned about.
And that's why there's a raven perched above Gregg Williams' chamber door.
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."