Joe Gibbs was not aware of the Washington Redskins’ bounty system operated during his second stint as the team’s head coach, a longtime Washington assistant coach said Monday.
Commenting for the first time about the pay-for-pain program former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams directed between 2004 and 2007, Greg Blache, who coached Washington’s defensive line for four seasons under Gibbs, said in a phone interview the Hall of Famer was not involved in the conduct that violated NFL rules. Last week, Gibbs said he had no knowledge of what many current and former Redskins players and two assistant coaches said occurred under him.
“I assure you, he had no idea of what was happening,” said Blache, who was aware of Williams’s actions but declined to provide specific details on the bounty system. “If he had, he would have put a stop to it.”
Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, is under fire for operating the same type of program with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints reportedly could face severe penalties after league investigators determined Williams paid out thousands of dollars for “knock-out hits,” tackles that sent players to the sidelines during games.
With Washington, Williams offered financial bonuses for “kill shots,” players said. Blache, who succeeded Williams as defensive coordinator before the 2008 season, recently declined to discuss his decision to shut down the operation after Williams was fired following the 2007 season.
But Blache, who rarely granted interviews during his final three seasons with the Redskins, decided to speak out Monday in support of Gibbs.
“The only reason I’m talking at all is that I don’t want to see a man like Joe Gibbs get pulled down into the muck of this because Joe Gibbs did not know,” Blache said. “The whole situation, the way this is all coming out, is unfortunate.
“But to have anyone think Joe Gibbs knew, or to accuse Joe Gibbs to be part and parcel to it, is just totally wrong. People who know me know I don’t put my name on a lot of things. But I know for a fact that he didn’t know, so I’ll put my name to this.”
Williams had significant freedom in running the defense, “and this was done in a very closed setting,” Blache said. “It was done separate from the team. It was done strictly as a defensive room situation. There was a saying in that room: ‘What’s said in here stays in here.’ Coach Gibbs had no clue.
“He’s such a straight-laced Christian kind of guy. Not that what went on was un-Christian . . . but he was just not tolerant of a lot of things. And had he ever gotten a drift of it, I can assure you, he would have come down with a hammer on the situation immediately. There’s no question.”
Other than the defensive players and coaches, Blache said, few people at Redskins Park were aware of the cash bonuses, which were also paid out for sacks, interceptions and forcing and recovering fumbles.
“Quite honestly, 99 percent of the offensive coaches didn’t know,” Blache said. “ There were a lot of people that didn’t know about it. Really, unless you were in that room, you didn’t know about it.”
Blache, who retired after the 2009 season, would be disappointed if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell penalized Washington for Williams’s bounty program.
“I’m not here to throw Gregg under the bus. I know Gregg, I’ve worked with Gregg . . . he’s a friend of mine,” Blache said. “But I just want people to know Joe Gibbs was not part of this.
“I understand the commissioner. I admire the commissioner. I’ve known him for years and I know he’s got a tough job to do. But at the same time, I would hate to see the organization suffer for something the higher-ups never knew about. I’d hate to see the organization suffer for a mistake one of the guys made.”