On Gregg Williams

Update [2008-2-5 13:53:34 by River City Rage]:: With the impending news that we've hired Gregg Williams, I thought it'd be good to "bump" this a bit.

[editor's note, by River City Rage]: With all the talk about Gregg Williams, I thought it would be useful to get some inside perspective on the man. Ben, from The Curly R was kind enough to do a little analysis on the subject. It's worth reading every word.

He certainly brings an energy

Greetings, I'm Ben Folsom and I write about the Redskins over at The Curly R.  In 2006 Chris and I traded 5 questions before the Redskins Jaguars game at Redskins Stadium, a thrilling 36-30 overtime win for Washington, little did we Redskins fans know that game pretty much would be the highlight of the 2006 season as the Redskins went on to finish 5-11.

Chris asked me what I thought about Gregg, about his football philosophy and what Jaguars fans could expect with Gregg as Jack Del Rio's defensive coordinator.  Gregg has a tremendous mind for defensive football and would be an asset for the Jaguars... under the right circumstances.

Disclaimer:  I did not want Gregg as the next head coach of the Redskins and even though I got my wish I would never ever have wanted to see Gregg treated the way he has been by Redskins owner Dan Snyder.  I hope wherever Gregg lands that he is successful and I almost look forward to the ass whooping his next team will lay on the Redskins first time they meet.

So what about Gregg?  Here are the three things you need to know:

1.  He is good.  His defenses have been bailing out weak offenses for years, first in Tennessee and then in Washington, he knows his way around defensive football.  His pedigree goes back to Buddy Ryan and it shows.  His defenses are aggressive and prone to getting in the heads of opposing quarterbacks and throwing them off their game.

In Washington Gregg's magic number was 18, that being the number of points the Redskins defense was gameplanned to hold the opposing offense to, also providing the expected minimum output for the offense to win.  He was remarkably consistent in this regard with his defenses holding opponents to 16.6 points in 2004, 18.3 points in 2005 and 19.4 points in 2007, the bugaboo year coming in 2006 when the Redskins gave up 23.5 points per game.  More on 2006 in a moment but for now know that this is really the statistic upon which Gregg's defenses are built.

His Redskin defenses may have been quote top ten unquote three of four years he was in Washington but that ranking is based upon number of yards given up, not scoring.  Gregg's defenses are soft in the middle of the field and harden near the red zone, he favors giving up time and yards in exchange for forcing punts and field goals.

2.  He has a high opinion of himself.  Cut as I mentioned from the Buddy Ryan cloth Gregg has no shortage of confidence in his schemes and in himself, to a fault.  For most of his time in Washington he ran a base Cover 2 shell, what we used to call a two deep zone, corners forcing wideouts to the sidlines and jamming the middle passing lanes with bodies.  When it works it works, when it does not it almost at times was like watching a frustrated someone play Madden football, calling the same defense over and over in the hope that one of these times the offense will play right into it and usually it did not.

Gregg believes himself above the political fray on a team, if you play for him he does not know or care about your salary and he views players as interchangeable, that if the scheme is run correctly that any random bunch of NFL caliber players can execute.  This approach ignores the relative worth of players literally in terms of who makes how much and therefore is expected to play as well as figuratively by keeping all players on edge as to where they stand with Gregg.  Ask LaVar Arrington if he thinks Gregg Williams was a fun guy to work with.

Thanksgiving week of the 2006 season an ESPN writer named Tom Friend published a piece on the downward spiral in Washington and a lot of the piece was focused on Gregg and his autocratic ways of doing things.  The piece featured an anonymous player, now pretty much acknowledged to be failed safety and 30 million dollar bust Adam Archuleta, bitching about what an ass Gregg was, how arrogant he was and how the message in the locker room was that the players were not achieving and never was there consideration that perhaps Gregg's schemes were not ideal for that 2006 roster.

All that said one thing I saw in 2007 was that he is capable of adjusting.  He came back from the stinker season in 2006 and fielded an excellent defense, one that propelled the Redskins into the playoffs this past season.  During that incredible four game stretch at the end Gregg shifted his defenses mostly from two deep zones to man to man coverage on the corners and zone blitzing from the linemen and linebackers.  It worked all four games but did not work in the playoffs.

3.  He needs supervision.  It was Gregg's Titans defenses that got him the head coaching position in Buffalo, a job he promptly screwed up, pissing off management and alienating players.  There are two sides to every story and Gregg has a story to tell on his own but from the outside perspective of a football fan it looked to me like he had no head for politics and an inability to adjust his football philosophy based on rosters, competition and practical reality.  With no one above him to guide him he made bad decisions and was fired after three seasons.

Later he would come to Washington and field two outstanding defenses in 2004 and 2005 then when 2006 rolled around Joe Gibbs took off the governor and gave Gregg total control over that side of the ball, scheme, player selection, assistant coaches, everything on defense was Gregg's.  Well we know what happened, the Redskins defense fell by yards per game to number 31, Adam Archuleta was an incredible bust, opponents moved the ball at will on Gregg's base Cover 2, the linebackers and defensive backs were always behind the play.

The aforementioned Tom Friend piece (op. cit.) goes into some detail about problems between two of Gregg's assistant coaches, one of whom was new with the Redskins that season.  Poor oversight of his assistants led to pissing contests between them and left players wondering if there were any adults in the house.  When you have players questioning a coach's motivation in the middle of a game you know you have problems.

To sum it up, as I wrote about Gregg earlier this month (op. cit.) it is my opinion that as Gregg's overall responsibility rises his quality of leadership and results on the field diminish.  He is an ideal coordinator if the head coach is strong enough to keep him and his ego in check.

So there you go, Gregg Williams in 1000 words.  I have a great deal of respect for Gregg Williams, moreso now that he was made publicly to suffer Dan Snyder humiliating him.  I categorically reject the notion, as we have read this week in Washington, that Gregg's quote missing man formation unquote to open the Bills game, the first game after Sean Taylor's death, somehow angered management or that he made anything approaching derogatory remarks about Joe Gibbs in one of his four interviews with Dan Snyder.  I think all this nonsense is a hatchet job by the owner, Dan is trying to quell fan outrage, flames fanned when Gregg, the overwhelming fan favorite to replace Joe Gibbs, was passed over, if Dan can convince Redskins fans that Gregg forced Dan's hand somehow we will accept this new regime put together, an entire coaching staff in place with no head coach.

Gregg left Washington with what was left of his dignity and I think he would be an outstanding defensive coordinator in Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio comes across to me as a forceful coach, one that can coexist with a star player like Gregg even as Gregg plots his return to some team as a head coach.

Thanks to Chris for inviting me over, good luck to Jaguars fans, and I'll see you around teh blogz.

Sean Taylor and Gregg Williams from here.

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