The St. Louis Rams have a little problem on their hands as blowback from the Gregg Williams bounty program story starts to infringe on the team's much-needed new path to respectability, and bigger profits. Not even three days old, the story continues to snowball with more and more revelations about Williams' past. Eventually, the story is going to force the Rams to act, even though the bounty system took place in locker rooms far away from the ones at the Edward Jones Dome.
The problem for the Rams is twofold.
Williams is going to be punished severely for his actions in New Orleans. The man is going to be suspended. It would be nothing short of a miracle if he was not. The extent of a potential suspension is unknown, but it figures to be lengthy one.
Regardless of the length of the suspension, it presents something of a problem for a team trying to implement a new defense. Sure, the scheme may be similar, but new it is nevertheless a new system for players to learn and adapt to in 2012. Sidelining Williams has the potential to short circuit that work.
A bigger issue is the distraction Williams' problems bring to the Rams, a team that planned to be singularly focused on rebuilding, again. The NFL investigation opened the floodgates. It appears that bounty systems were a regular part of Williams' approach, just another part of his base package.
The NFL will now investigate claims of Williams running a bounty system in Washington. Another report says that Williams had a bounty system in Buffalo. Tony Dungy says the Titans had one too, after Williams had moved on from his stint as the defensive coordinator there.
This thing is getting uncomfortably close to Jeff Fisher, the well-respected veteran head coach hired at some $7 million per year to turn around a fledgling franchise. Williams' proximity to Fisher presents another problem since Fisher was re-installed to his seat on the league's competition committee, the body that makes determinations about rules.
You can see the potential for problems.
Between their London troubles, the owner's flirtation with buying the Los Angeles Dodgers and lease negotiations that will determine the team's future in St. Louis, the Rams already have plenty of distractions. Another one of this magnitude and people might forget altogether that there is actually a football team here ... if they haven't already after years of futility on the football field.
The Rams will have to have a serious conversation about whether or not to fire Gregg Williams. Doing so might be their best way to contain the blaze before it can do greater damage.
Roger Goodell will have some say in the matter when he makes a determination about the consequences. If he goes easy on Williams, which seems unlikely given the league's public overtures to player safety and branding as an enterprise that appeals across demographics, the Rams can take a chance that the whole thing will just fade from collective memory. Fat chance.
The real problem here is the proximity to Fisher and his task of fixing this franchise. In order to do that now, he may need to ask his old friend to fall on his sword.