What’s So Great About Greg Williams?

The New Orleans Saints announced on Thursday that they have hired the only candidate to interview for the defensive coordinator position – Greg Williams. The initial reaction from fans seems to be overwhelmingly positive: the much-despised Gary Gibbs is gone and the team picked a defensive-minded coach with 19 years of coaching experience in less than a week.

However, when I told a friend of mine the news, his reaction was “what’s so great about him?” (I think that he had his heart set on somebody else). When I said that Williams had been the defensive coordinator this year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he again did not seem impressed. “They were awful this year.” Hearing that the Jaguars and Williams decided to mutually part ways after his one-year contract was over compounded his lack of interest. “He used to be the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins too, and he had been head coach of the Buffalo Bills,” I said, trying to not let his negative reaction dash my hopes for the Super Bowl so early in the offseason. Finally, I had to go look up some statistics to make my argument stick that this was a good move for the Saints.

That is what I want to give you, the reader, so that you too will see that hiring Williams was a good choice – or maybe I am just trying to keep the gris-gris away.

Greg Williams came into the NFL in 1990 after being a high school coach and an assistant at the University of Houston. He started with the Houston Oilers (remember them?) who later became the Tennessee Titans. He was with the Oilers/Titans from 1990 to 2000, having started out as an assistant, special teams coach, linebackers coach, and finally defensive coordinator, which he held from 1997 to 2000.

In 1997, the Tennessee Oilers were ranked 22nd in total defense (Saints ranked fourth) but were fourth in rushing defense. The next year, Tennessee moved up to 16th in total defense. In 1999, Tennessee was 17th.

The Titans’ defense really exploded as the new millennium started. In 2000, Tennessee ranked number one in overall defense with 238.3 yards per game, number one in passing defense (do we need help here?) with 151.4 yards per game, and 3rd in rushing defense with 86.9 yards per game. Tennessee allowed only 191 points that year (an average of less than 12 points per game), and were second only to the Baltimore Ravens. This was the third-lowest points total since the NFL went to a 16 game season.

When Williams left the Titans to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2001, Tennessee’s defense fell to 25th while the Bills’ defense was ranked 21st (13th against the pass). In 2002, they were ranked 15th (6th against the pass). In 2003, the Bills ranked number two overall in defense (269.6 yards per game) and number two against the pass (169.2 yards per game). However, the Bills ranked 30th in offense that year and Williams was fired.

In 2004, Williams joined the Redskins coaching staff as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. He took a defense that had been ranked 25th in the league the year before and turned them into the number three total defense (7th against the pass, second against the rush). Washington allowed 267.6 yards per game that year and 265 total points. In 2005, Washington was ranked ninth in the league (10th against the pass).

In 2006, Washington’s defense fell hard to 31st in the league. The Redskins came back quickly though, finishing 8th in total defense in 2007 (16th in passing and 4th in rushing).

So, that brings us to this past season where Williams was defensive coordinator/assistant head coach with the Jaguars. The Jaguars had been ranked 12th overall in 2007 but had lost longtime defensive coordinator Mike Smith to the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons. The Jaguars finished 17th this season but were tied for 13th against the rush.

So, out of the twelve years that Williams has been a defensive coordinator or head coach, he has had five top-ten ranked defenses (Titans in 2000, Bills in 2003, Redskins in 2004, 2005, and 2007). He has had only three years where the defense finished at 20 or below (Titans in 1997, Bills in 2001, and Redskins in 2006). However, two of those years were his first in a new position.

Williams is a seasoned coach who can do more than just improve one area of the defense. He is supposed to be known for running aggressive attacks on the opposing quarterback, something that we were lacking this year.

According to the articles in the Times-Picayune, Williams is really enthusiastic about the position which I think is pretty important. Williams might have had offers at Green Bay and at Tennessee, which have usually been more desirable places for coaches to end up than in the Big Easy. To me, that shows he views the team as a contender.

In the end, my friend seemed convinced when I told him that Williams had coached several top-ten defenses. I think that all he wanted after all was to be sure that this wasn’t another “Same Ol’ Saints” move.

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4 Responses to “What’s So Great About Greg Williams?”

  1. Jamie Hobbs says:

    I completely agree with you. This team has had the “horses” to have an exceptional defense for 2 years, but have been stuck in the infamous bend but don’t break schemes of Gibbs. With Williams, the D will offer up a sready diet of Blitz packages & b/r coverage. That’s how you generate take aways.

  2. craig says:

    yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! greg williams rules

  3. […] he got there and are stlll really good after he left. Here’s an article with all the particulars: What?s So Great About Greg Williams? Saints Gab SFIAH __________________ Virtually all SB winners had a top 10 scoring defense. Knock ’em […]

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