When Rams fans last saw Gregg Williams… well actually, they never saw him.
After taking over as head coach of St. Louis prior to the 2012 season, Jeff Fisher hired Williams to be the team’s defensive coordinator. Shortly thereafter, he was suspended for the season for his role in the New Orleans Saints “Bountygate” scandal. Williams’ role with the Rams was over before it even began.
Or so we thought.
After firing defensive coordinator Tim Walton – who held the title for one season – on Wednesday, Fisher found a familiar face to fill the spot: Williams.
The hiring (re-hiring?) itself isn’t all that shocking. Fisher is known for keeping a close circle of coaches with whom he works.
The bigger surprise is the timing of everything that has taken place. The Rams’ season ended a month ago and nary a word was spoken of coaching or personnel changes. Business as usual at Rams Park.
Sure, there were rumors toward the end of the season that Fisher had taken over the defensive play-calling duties and that the team was looking to replace Walton. But Fisher denied such talks were taking place even as Walton was banished to the coaches’ box.
It’s obvious that the plan to bring Williams back had been in the works for a little while. Teams don’t wait a month to fire a coordinator, not with how quickly the coaching carousel whirls once the season ends.
Secondly, the hiring of Williams took place almost immediately after Walton was relieved of his duties. Again, that just doesn’t typically happen on a football team where every move is measured and analyzed.
Third, Fisher isn’t a fly-by-the seat-of-his-pants kind of coach. He’s proven that with previous coaching hires and his general style of running an organization.
So here we are. Shocking or not, Gregg Williams is back at Rams Park, taking over the role he was expected to fulfill two years ago.
Personnel-wise, he inherits a defense that finished 15th overall in 2013. Overall, it was a slight step back from 2012 when the unit – unofficially led by Blake Williams, Gregg’s son (more on that in a minute) – finished 14th in total defense.
Of bigger concern was the regression of key defensive players such as cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Walton’s defense often employed “soft coverage,” which allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 68.1 percent of their passes against the Rams, worst in the NFL.
Williams will be responsible for fixing that disturbing trend moving forward. He’ll also be relied upon to get the young players – Jenkins, cornerback Trumaine Johnson and others – back on track and enhance their development.
It will be interesting to see how Williams fares in his first “official” go-around with the Rams. He has a reputation of putting together (ahem) aggressive defenses and players responded well to him in the past.
But that was before Williams was caught in the crosshairs of the Bountygate investigation. He named those involved with the scandal. Will that affect the trust he must build with the players and coaching staff?
And what about the awkward ordeal of returning to an organization that not only fired him a year ago, but his son as well? According to Fisher, Blake Williams didn’t mesh well with the rest of the coaching staff. As a result, he was let go after the 2012 season.
I would have to imagine Fisher and Papa Williams cleared the air on this one. Still an interesting (and slightly uncomfortable) situation, nonetheless.
Obviously Fisher’s familiarity with Williams was a big factor in the former re-hiring the latter. The Rams head coach wants things done a certain way and by people he trusts. As a result, Williams is getting a second chance to make a first impression on the organization.
Read our original story about the Gregg Williams hire.