One day after that bland introductory press conference to officially present Adam Gase as the new head coach, the Jets added some spice on Tuesday when they closed in on a contract with controversial defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
ESPN first reported the sides were nearing an agreement.
Williams brings an aggressive reputation, but he also brings some well-known red flags — beginning with his involvement in Bountygate, which got him suspended for the entire 2012 season when he was the Saints defensive coordinator.
Still, Williams could prove to be a much-needed jolt to what had become a complacent Jets locker room, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, under the watch of former head coach Todd Bowles and his defensive coordinator, Kacy Rodgers.
Aggressive — though not in the form of placing bounties on opposing players — is exactly what the Jets need, as they ranked 29th in the league in points allowed this season and 25th in yards allowed. In 2017, they ranked 22nd and 25th, and in 2016 they ranked 28th and 11th.
The Jets this past season allowed 441 points, the second-highest total in franchise history.
The Jets, who had become stagnant while losing 34 games in the past three seasons, are in need of an attitude adjustment, a little disciplined butt-kicking from their coaches so they can do some butt-kicking of their own.
Williams could be just the man to do it.
Gase on Monday made it clear his No. 1 role as the head coach will be nurturing Sam Darnold, the franchise quarterback.
“I probably need to spend my time with the quarterback,” Gase said. “That’s why, whoever we bring in here on defense has to do a great job of making sure he’s really the head coach of the defense.”
That’s exactly what Williams represents. The 60-year-old has been a defensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL for 20 years. He not only has a strong reputation as a defensive coordinator, but he’s been an NFL head coach, too, spending three seasons coaching the Bills and the latter half of this past season coaching the Browns on an interim basis.
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Williams, in fact, was thought to be a candidate to remain the head coach in Cleveland after leading the Browns to a 5-3 finish in their final eight games. But Browns management, much like the Jets with Gase, made their head-coaching hire all about their young quarterback, Baker Mayfield, and elevated Freddie Kitchens from his offensive coordinator job to the big seat.
The Redskins reportedly were vying for Williams’ services as their defensive coordinator before the Jets closed the deal.
Williams’ arrival will surely mean a change in defensive scheme for the Jets, who’ve been running a 3-4 base defense under their previous three head coaches, dating back to 2006. Williams always has run an attacking 4-3 scheme, predicated on heavy blitzing.
That undoubtedly will have Jets safety Jamal Adams, their best defensive player, salivating. Perhaps it’ll spark the likes of disappointing high draft picks such as defensive lineman Leonard Williams and linebacker Darron Lee, who’s coming off of a substance-abuse suspension.
A trademark of Williams’ defenses has been creating turnovers, one of the Jets’ weakest areas under Bowles. This past season the Jets finished with only 20 takeaways, 11 fewer than the Browns, who finished second in the league to the Bears.
In Cleveland, the Browns finished 30th in total yards allowed this season, but they reduced their point total for the second consecutive season, ranking 21st in scoring defense (392 points).
In his career, Williams has overseen top-10 ranked defenses in yards seven times, most recently in 2016 with the Rams. He’s led top-10 ranked defenses in points five times, most recently with the Saints in 2010.
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Then came Bountygate, in which Williams admitted to overseeing a program with his players in New Orleans for which they’d be paid incentive money for causing injuries that would take targeted players on opposing teams out of games.
After serving his Bountygate suspension in 2012, Williams returned in 2013 with the Titans in a senior assistant role and then joined the Rams in 2014 as their defensive coordinator.
Williams has never worked with Gase, who also has a strong personality, so clashing personalities is a potential problem if things don’t go smoothly.
This will be Williams’ eighth job as a defensive coordinator since 1997. He was the Saints coordinator from 2009 to 2011, when he was implicated in the Bountygate scandal. In his only full-time head coaching stint, Williams went 17-31 with the Bills from 2001-2003.
While Gase on Monday didn’t comment specifically on Williams when asked about him, he said this about the staff of assistants he planned to assemble: “The way my work ethic is, and the way my staff is put together, that will give me a good chance on Sundays.
“Whether it’s Week 5, Week 9 or Week 17, my guys are going to play hard. My guys are going to embody what we’re going to be as a coaching staff.”