New Jets head coach Adam Gase touched on plenty of topics during his 15-minute press conference on Monday, but he omitted one key name.
The 40-year-old emphasized the importance of instructing a young quarterback like Sam Darnold, not being interested in total team control and, finally, filling out the remainder of his coaching staff. Gregg Williams is the defensive coordinator generating a buzz in New York and, though Gase did not specifically utter his name on Monday, reports say the Jets are close to bringing Williams in.
Williams, 60, spent part of last season as the Browns interim coach after Cleveland fired head coach Hue Jackson at the end of October. Williams was the defensive coordinator of the Browns the last two seasons before the promotion, when he led Cleveland to a 5-3 record as interim coach. He built a strong case to keep the job by energizing the Browns and helping Cleveland post its best record (7-8) since the 2017 campaign.
Shepherding Cleveland from the Jackson-era was a strong bounce back for Williams after being at the center of the Bountygate controversy at the start of the decade. Members of the Saints were found guilty of paying out bonuses, or bounties, for injuring opposing team players. The pool was alleged to have been in operation from 2009 (the year in which New Orleans won Super Bowl XLIV) to 2011.
In 2012 the league announced Williams, who served as the Saints' defensive coordinator at the time, created the program soon after his arrival in '09. He was out of the league for a three-year period as one of NFL's most severe sanctions in history. Williams was finally hired again in 2014 by Jeff Fischer and the St. Louis Rams.
Despite his checkered past, Williams' keen attention and saturated defensive experience will allow Gase to focus solely on Darnold and the offense, should the Jets reach a deal with the defensive coordinator. Gase may feel less pressure by allowing Williams to handle the defense as he sees fit, instead of stepping on one another's toes. Moreover, Jets' defensive back Jamal Adams is projected to thrive under Williams' careful watch.
"I probably need to spend my time with the quarterback," Gase said on Monday. "That's why whoever we bring in here on the defense has to do a great job with making sure he's really the head coach of the defense."
Williams prides himself on running a defense that plays with a type of swagger. Williams has been the top defensive assistant for six teams over the last 21 years. His units have finished in the Top 10 in total defense seven times. He served as Joe Gibbs' defensive coordinator for the Redskins from 2004 to 2007, and the team twice made the playoffs. He served as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001 to 2003. He uses aggressive ploys in addition to a 4-3 base defense with an ultimate goal of applying pressure on the quarterback.
While the Jets and Williams are at an impasse for the job, the Redskins are reportedly meeting with the defensive coordinator on Tuesday. If Williams decides to pass on New York, the Jets may be running out of options. New York had its eyes on former Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, who has since taken a defensive coordinator role with the Arizona Cardinals. Former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was also on the Jets' wish list, but he signed on with the Chicago Bears.
If the Jets want Williams as their aggressive defensive coordinator, someone who will take charge of the back end, New York may need to act fast.