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Coaches

Gregg Williams
Defensive Coordinator
College:
Northeastern Missouri St.
Hometown:
Excelsior Springs, Mo.

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, entering his third season as the architect of the Saints’ defense, has infused the Black-and-Gold’s defensive charges and molded them into an attacking, multiple schemed defense that has risen drastically in a short period of time to be one of the most formidable units in the National Football League. Williams has helped the Saints capture a division title (2009), an NFC Conference Championship (2009), and Super Bowl XLIV, as well as an 11-5 record and NFC Wild Card berth in 2010.

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, entering his third season as the architect of the Saints’ defense, has infused the Black-and-Gold’s defensive charges and molded them into an attacking, multiple schemed defense that has risen drastically in a short period of time to be one of the most formidable units in the National Football League. Williams has helped the Saints capture a division title (2009), an NFC Conference Championship (2009), and Super Bowl XLIV, as well as an 11-5 record and NFC Wild Card berth in 2010.

When Coach Sean Payton began the search for a defensive coordinator following the 2008 season, he focused on finding a coach with experience, intensity, character and a track record of success built on teaching skills. Payton found those traits in Williams, who has been the leader of some of the NFL’s finest defenses over the course of the past decade. Williams owns the distinction of presiding over five separate top five total defenses during his coaching career: Tennessee Titans (number one in total defense in 2000), Buffalo Bills (number three in 2001 and number two in 2003), Washington Redskins (number three in 2005), and the New Orleans Saints (number four in 2010). As a defensive coordinator or head coach (14 seasons, Williams has racked up seven top-ten overall defenses.

Williams, a 21-year coaching veteran in the NFL – including three seasons as a head coach and ten as a defensive coordinator – has a well-earned reputation around the league for producing sound, aggressive units. In 2010 the Saints saw dramatic improvement in the NFL in yardage surrendered per game, moving from 25th in the NFL in 2009 (357.8 yards per game) to the fourth-best defense (306.3 yards per game) in 2010, and moved from 20th place in 2009 to seventh place in 2010 in opponents points per game (19.2 average). Additionally, the Saints’ scoring defense allowed an average of only 17.2 points per game (third fewest in the NFC) over the course of the season, a direct result of the team’s stingy net passing yards allowed per game (193.9 yards per contest average), which marked the fourth-fewest yards allowed through the air in the NFL.

In 2010 the Saints defense also registered top-five final rankings in third down defense, with opposing offenses converting only 34.5% of their opportunities. Additionally the Black-and-Gold finished fourth-best against NFL quarterbacks by allowing only 75.3 in passer ratings, which directly correlated to the Saints’ top ranking of fewest passing touchdowns allowed all season (13).  In fact, since Williams’ arrival in New Orleans, the Saints have allowed only 26 touchdown passes against in two seasons, which is six better than the next closest team (NYJ-32).

Williams’ impact on the Saints’ defense was impressive as they improved significantly in several categories. After allowing opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone on 48.2 of their possessions in 2008, the Saints lowered that figure to 39.3 in 2009, second-lowest in the NFL. The Saints recorded only 15 interceptions in 2008 and then finished second in the NFC and third in the NFL with 26 picks in 2009. He was in charge of a unit that recorded 35 defensive takeaways, after recording only 21 in 2008. Seven of those takeaways were returned for touchdowns. New Orleans had three defensive players (S Roman Harper, S Darren Sharper and LB Jonathan Vilma) named to the Pro Bowl.   The Saints’ interception return yardage tallies since 2009 has been the NFL’s top ranked unit (848 yards) for a league-best average of 24.2 yards interception, and tied with the New England Patriots for the most interceptions returned for touchdowns over that period of time (seven touchdowns).

The defense continued to show a nose for the ball in the playoffs as they led the league with eight takeaways, while holding opponents to an average of 19.6 points per game. Twice the defense came up with a pair of key fourth quarter interceptions. Near the end of regulation in the NFC Championship Game, CB Tracy Porter intercepted Minnesota QB Brett Favre at the New Orleans 22-yard line, stopping a potential Vikings game-winning score and ensuring overtime. Late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints took a 14-point lead when Porter returned a Peyton Manning pick 74 yards for a touchdown.

He arrived in New Orleans following a one-year stint in Jacksonville as defensive coordinator/assistant head coach, defense, where in 2008 the Jaguars held 10 opponents to 20 points or less. Williams spent the previous four seasons (2004-07) as assistant head coach/defense of the Washington Redskins.

Washington had one of the NFL’s top defenses over that span, allowing just 19.4 points per game and ranking sixth overall in defense during the four-season stretch. In 2007, the Redskins ranked eighth in the NFL in total defense, including allowing only 91.3 yards per game rushing.

In 2005, the Redskins defense was a key factor in the club making its first postseason appearance since 1999. Washington allowed less than 19 points per contest that season – including a scant 11.7 over the final six games. In 2004, Williams made an immediate impact on a unit that had finished 24th the year before, with the Redskins’ defense improving to third in the NFL and forcing 26 turnovers.

Prior to joining the Redskins, Williams spent three seasons as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, where the defense improved each season. In 2003, the Bills ranked second in the league, jumping from 15th in 2002 and 21st in 2001. Overall in 2003, Buffalo’s defensive and special teams units finished among the NFL’s top five in nine categories.

His reputation as a defensive coach was forged in his years with Tennessee, where he served for 11 seasons (1990-2000), including as coordinator over his last four years with the club. Initially hired as a defensive quality control coach when the team was still located in Houston, he was promoted to special teams coach in 1993, and took over as linebackers coach from 1994-96 before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1997.

The club made a steady climb to the top of the NFL’s defensive charts under Williams’ direction. In his first year as coordinator, the unit forced 32 turnovers. In 1998, Tennessee ranked in the top 10 against the run and held seven opponents to 14 points or less. The following year the Titans would march to Super Bowl XXXIV, force 39 turnovers and place DE Jevon Kearse and DT John Thornton on All-Rookie teams.

In 2000, the Titans led the NFL in total defense for the first time since joining the NFL and allowed 191 points – the third-fewest in league record books since the adoption of a 16-game schedule in 1978. Tennessee also set club records with 55 sacks, fewest passing yards allowed (2,424) and fewest touchdowns allowed (17). It completed a two-year stretch where the Titans posted an NFL-high 109 sacks.

Prior to arriving in the NFL, Williams was a graduate assistant at the University of Houston from 1988-89 under former NFL head coach Jack Pardee. From 1984-87, Williams was the head coach at Belton, Mo., High School after opening his coaching career at Excelsior Springs (Mo.) High School.

Williams graduated from Northeast Missouri State, where he played quarterback and also played baseball. He later earned a master’s degree from Central Missouri. He and his wife, Leigh Ann, have a daughter, Amy, and two sons, Blake, a coaching assistant on the Saints staff, and Chase, a red shirt freshman on the Virginia Tech football squad. Gregg and Blake were the first father and son combination who served on the same coaching staff to win a Super Bowl. 

 

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