John Madden says NFL will end bounty system with harsh punishment

Hall of Fame coach John Madden said Tuesday that he anticipates NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hand out severe punishments in the wake of the so-called “pay for performance” bounty scandal of the New Orleans Saints.

“When [Goodell] does something and he gets them -- and I don’t know what the discipline is -- but I’ll tell you what, when he puts some teeth in the rules or whatever he’s going to do, it won’t happen again,” said Madden, who co-chairs the league’s safety panel with former player Ronnie Lott.

“It will be gone,” Madden said of giving improper cash bonuses, as the Saints did, for hits that knock opponents out of games. “You’ll look back years from now and say, ‘Remember when they used to do that?’ They won’t do it anymore” with Goodell.

The league has yet to announce any punishments following its lengthy investigation, the results of which were released Friday. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, has apologized for his role in the payouts, which were largely funded by a player cash pool and included rewards of $1,000 for a “cart-off” and $1,500 for a knockout.

Others who could be punished include Saints Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who reportedly funded a bounty of $10,000 for anyone who could knock Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC championship game.


“The cart-off and knockout and those things, that surprised me,” Madden said in a phone interview. “I didn’t think that was in the culture. Obviously, it doesn’t belong in the culture, and I know the commissioner is going to get it out.

“If you’re going to hit someone, it’s usually a quarterback. So I think we have to really watch the quarterbacks and protect them. I know all about the ‘they wear skirts’ BS, but we really have to protect them. Because after they throw the ball, they’re really vulnerable.

“If someone’s going to go after someone, they go after a quarterback after he throws the ball, and they go after a running back when he’s down on the ground. That’s when you get the shots.”

Madden, who also serves as chairman of the coaches’ subcommittee of the competition committee, said the league is considering limiting the responsibilities of the referee to solely watching the quarterback from the snap through the whistle.

“I don’t know that the referee can be watching holding on the offensive line and get back to the quarterback,” he said. “I think watching the quarterback is a full-time job.”

Madden said that, although there has been talk of adding an eighth official, he believes the current crew of seven could handle the job.

“We need to let the referee’s sole thing be to protect the quarterback and get those late hits out of there. They even have a stat on television that says ‘knockdowns.’ Knockdowns means that you knock him down after he throws the ball. The assumption is if it’s legal we’ll make excuses for them. They just let defenders beat the hell out of those guys after they throw it. We don’t let them touch a punter or kicker after a ball leaves his foot.”

Madden added: “We need the quarterbacks. It’s a passing league and a quarterback-driven league. We need the Peyton Mannings in football uniforms out there playing -- the Tom Bradys, the Drew Breeses, the Philip Riverses -- we need those guys instead of them standing on the sideline.”