No one will blame Georgia senior safety Shawn Williams for being frustrated with the play of his Bulldogs defense. Billed as one of the top units in the nation preseason, Georgia is instead a mediocre 49th in the FBS in total defense and now fresh off giving up 206 rushing yards to a Kentucky team that had only crossed the 100-yard mark in three of its seven games coming in.
So it's no surprise to hear Williams say that his fellow Bulldogs defenders need some kind of motivational spark ahead of this week's make-or-break showdown with archrival (and BCS No. 2) Florida. But arguing for this particular motivational spark will no doubt raise some eyebrows. From the Macon Telegraph:
"It seems like we need the coach from the Saints, it seems like we need him. It seems like we need a pay-for-play system. That's what it seems like we need though. We need Sean Payton."
Telegraph reporter Sean Emerson wrote that Williams "seemed only half-joking" when saying that Mark Richt needed to institute his own bounty program.
Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine the longtime starter being entirely serious (or serious at all) about his coaches rewarding the Bulldogs for big plays (or other, ahem, accomplishments) with cash. But the rest of Williams' interview was nearly as memorable, and left no doubt as to his seriousness:
"We've gotta stop playing soft. We're playing too soft defensively. That goes for D-line, linebackers, corners, safeties. I don't know, we're not playing with the same attitude we played with last year. I don't know what it is ...
I'm trying to see if I just have to take someone's helmet off and just slap them, or what's going on? We're not playing with any emotion right now, period."
Williams still wasn't done--he also said some players weren't "giving it all [they've] got" and that the coaches should play linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Alec Ogletree more snaps.
The practical fallout from Williams' comments isn't likely to be substantial at all; the coaches are going to stick to their rotations, Williams will likely have to clarify his Sean Payton comments, and one or two teammates may be rubbed the wrong way while one or two others fight a little extra edge Saturday.
But if it's a positive that Williams never quite ventured into suspension-level territory, it's also a negative that his comments won't have any practical fallout. As the recent public squabbling at Auburn has helped prove, by the time a player feels compelled to call out his teammates in the media, the damage is usually already done, the underlying issues already too far gone to be corrected.
That doesn't mean that's automatically the case for Georgia; it's still very possible that somehow, some way, the fire gets relit in time to upset the Gators and even win the East. But the appearance of Williams' comments -- if not the comments themselves -- aren't a good omen for the Bulldogs' chances.