As I stood along the sidelines at camp last summer, I had an up-close opportunity to watch Gregg Williams for the first time.
He was a combination of intensity, humor, aggression, animation, and dedication. You could see a connection with his players. He brought his own unique brand of panache.
I won’t see him there next year. According to multiple sources, Williams was fired Monday morning.
As the season declined, you could see this end coming. And there will be more of them down the road.
I realized and understood Williams’ somewhat tarnished reputation as a defensive coordinator who played dirty at times, but he was willing to take any gamble to succeed.
He looked like a good fit for the Jets’ defense, which surely needed a shock to their system.
Williams delivered in grand fashion last season. He fine tuned the Jets defense with various schemes and blitzes that elevated them to the seventh-best unit in the league, and one that was prominent in their 6-2 finish last year.
His defense would be the catalyst for this season, which many viewed as a postseason run.
A year later, Williams watched his steadily implode, the final major explosion in a zero blitz – eight men sent on two consecutive plays– that left rookie corner Lamar Jackson on the final play alone on Las Vegas’s Henry Ruggs III, regarded as one of the fastest receivers in the league.
Las Vegas 28, Jets 24 with five seconds left.
Wow! Victory number one slipped away, and there was one glaring suspect.
Criticism of Williams’ call spread from his players and throughout the organization. You could read between the lines and see the anger and frustration on the face of head coach Adam Gase.
Williams and Gase had their publicized differences on whether the offense or defense was totally responsible for the team’s debacle this season. Williams defended his unit and fired a salvo at the offense.
In his defense, Williams never had linebacker CJ Mosley, who was lost early last year with an injury and opted out due to COVID this year.
He also lost gamechanger Jamal Adam, Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson via trades.
Williams still had a small core of Marcus Maye, Neville Hewitt, Henry Anderson, and Jordan Jenkins along with promising rookies Ashtyn Dabis and Bryce Hall. The rest was a bond of promising young players, primarily in recent weeks of rookies and free agents.
Williams was expected to pull a Royal Flush without any face cards.
In the end, he did what he does best — he called the Raiders’ bluff and laid it all out on the table.
Some may call him selfish or stupid, but his flare and creativity should be appreciated.
For the better part of a year, Williams’ defense was fun to watch. He’ll go down in the Jets annals as one of the more colorful coordinators.
Like the rest of the team, however, he and his unit finally hit rock bottom.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire