<span>New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams
How would you define the Gregg Williams culture of defense?
" I think it goes back to the things that Sean (Payton) asked me when we were both trying to decide if it would be a match, you know, as we were both recruiting each other. His number one thing was I want this defense to play with a swagger. I want it to play the way our offense plays. I said at that point in time, and I is said it tongue-in-cheek, well, you probably found the right guy in that respect. And, again, I learned that and I attribute a lot of things to the time I had a chance to work with Buddy Ryan in that respect. It starts with attitude first defensively. I think there was a lot of attitude plays that started early in the season that carry over and confidence kind of is contagious, it catches on. Then all of a sudden now they believe it's their idea. It's not my idea. They buy into it. Empowerment is powerful.
I've always been able to kind of get people to buy in and get people to believe it's their idea. Sometimes it takes a lot longer to walk them down the path instead of forcing it down their throat. I think that's short-term success any time the old dictatorial or authoritarian type coaching that went on in years past, I don't think that's a way to handle the new players. Now I'm old school in the respect that if I can't get you to walk down the path, I'm probably going to get you to walk out the door, one of those things. But we're going to go the extra mile with a talented guy. Get him to understand that the team's first. You're going to have to play with an attitude.."
Are the turnovers a direct reflection?
"Turnovers and scoring on defense is a direct reflection on that. We've worked very, very hard, and you all saw us when we first started. Our offensive coaches thought we were nuts when we first started here. The people who watched us practice, because we treat every loose ball on the ground, an incomplete pass, a dropped ball, we treat it as a turnover. We also treat every single time the ball is on the ground as a scoring play. We have an offensive play that we have drawn up in our defensive playbook. The diagrams are all right there how you take every single ball that goes into your hand and how you turn it into a blocked design offensive score. It was even neat last week. I think (Darren) Sharper epitomizes that when you saw his little extra effort. I tease him a little about his young legs, when he jumped the guy and had an opportunity now to pop it through the first line of defense. The guys are trying to help him score. And that part of it is, I think, a very, very strong part of the swagger of the defense, yes."
Can you talk about the block on Kurt Warner last week?
"Yeah, we're not going to apologize. This is a contact game. Not only that block on Warner, who I have tremendous respect for, you know, we don't have anybody on our defense that is a finesse player. If you go back and check wherever I've been, we've been able to I think everybody's got a cap, you know. But I think we can improve toughness and we can improve attitude. Everybody's got a cap, and I've got to try to get these guys to bounce up to their cap. The highest part of them. We don't believe in cover corners. We don't believe. We think everybody has a face mask and shoulder pads and you're supposed to use them. If you don't use them, then you turn into a highway cone and stand over by me.
We joke about that right now. They even joke about the terms of the descriptive terms that I've used here to get my point across is that when somebody they see on film doesn't perform in a way we're supposed to be performing, you'll hear them say in the meeting room, he's going to play highway cone next. He's going to be a highway cone. And that's what they're going to do."
Does your coaching philosophy develop coming from when you were a young coach maybe? More open to the ideas of the authoritative aspect of it? Did it come from working with different people?
"Yeah, I think it's been evolving. I think it continues to evolve. I think the fact that longevity in any career, especially at this career at the top of the profession, you have to be able to adapt. You have to be able to sometimes improvise. I think you have to be able to relate. If you can't relate with people, if you can't get people to listen to you, then you don't have a chance in this profession. You don't have a chance as a coach. I can be personality any way that I want to be as long as the player believes I'm helping him become better. Now there's lots of ways to do it. There are lots of different personalities.
We laugh, we joke. But we never apologize how we're going to be inside the white lines. And inside the white lines we try to perform and kind of transform our identity into, you know, very tough, very fast, nasty, those type of things that are strong defensive football teams are that way. Buddy Ryan will tell you this. Unless your defense is feared, then it's not really a legitimate defense. And how that comes about is through contact, it comes about through speed, and it comes about through the fear of making a mistake against that type of defense."
What impresses you most about Minnesota's offense?
"I think Brad's (Childress) done a very good job throughout the whole time he's been there. Now this time around going against him and the Vikings, the quarterback has been a pretty good addition to what he's been able to do there. But I think they built it from the line of scrimmage back. I think that Brad did a very good job of identifying the right kind of line play that he wanted. I think they're very sound on the line of scrimmage. I think the running backs are special, and I say backs because I've had tremendous respect for Chester (Taylor) ever since he was at Baltimore, going against him at Baltimore.
Adrian Peterson, He's special. They've been able to get some receivers in there that can make big plays. I've tried to speak with as many coaching friends and confidantes as I could this week that play in that division. And every one of them made sure they tried to make an impression with me in a conversation I've had with them about what a talented young athlete Percy Harvin is."
Was there a lot of contact in training camp?
"Our competition with the number one offense in the National Football League day in and day out has helped us tremendously. And then when especially in OTA's and training camp when our offense struggled. And I say struggled against us defensively. All of a sudden they thought, hmm, we might be a little bit better than we thought we were in that respect. That does help. And I know that they carded plays, I know you have to show scout team plays. We both have to do that. But Sean (Payton) and I would prefer to go against each other and practice in a chess game between he and I. It's a chess game between Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma and Darren Sharper. I think that thing right there, that's priceless in competition. And that every single day is a competition and is an interview. When you interview on Sundays things slow down a little bit. Things are more routine. But all of a sudden you throw guys on out there in a stressful situation and maybe they don't perform as well as you'd like them to perform, it's because you probably didn't do a very good job as a coach throughout the work week and put them in those situations to start with. Our players here, they thrive on that competition. They really do. It's been very good.
How much of it for you was seeing that from every one of your players, and seeing that they don't want to lose a single down?
"Everywhere I've been it's been that way. Again, a lot of guys here earlier in the spring, they were shaking their head and kind of somewhat questioning me how come I graded every single play in every single competition. Because when the players see that we as a coaching staff went to an inordinate length to put a big premium on competition of every single play, it transformed into they did, too.
Just like kindergartners or first or second graders like they walk in the room and their score was on the board for everybody to see. Don't think that's not motivating. It's not demeaning. It is what it is. It's fact. That is very, very, very important. And I do think it carries over. And it carries over to when your team, when your players perform at the highest level, execute at the highest level under the most stressful conditions that is when you have a chance to be special. I had to learn a lot about these guys. I was able to learn faster about these guys under the competition standards we had here somewhat quicker. Because it was like I threw them to the wolves. When you've got somebody like Drew on our offense here, they stood out faster. "
What does Buddy Ryan think about three defensive coordinators who played for him or coached for him being in Championship games?
"You know he's got to be smiling. And I thought I read something this week where I think he's going to the (Jets) game. Going to Rex's (Ryan) game. I think he has to be smiling. And I do think that every year when I talk to him he always throws that old jab out here that he used to say to Jeff Fisher and I that we screwed his defense up because we worried too much about coverage and not enough about hitting the quarterback in the face. He's got to be smiling a little bit right now because he's got three of his guys out there that really are looking to hit the quarterback as many times as we can. So he's got to be feeling good about that. "
In the last third of the season you gave up more yardage than earlier on. What made you confident that wouldn't carry over to the playoffs?
"Those are numbers that you worry about that I don't worry about. "
In your success against some good passing games this season, were all the game plans a little bit different than the other one?
"Every one. It kind of goes back to conditions of the game week. It kind of goes back to weapons that he has at his disposal at that time. And really sometimes it goes to what we have to be able to employ, deploy out there on the field against him. We try to change it up. You know, he's last week we smiled a little bit about going against an older quarterback like Kurt (Warner), you know. As long as I've been in the league, we've crossed paths at so many different places. Now Brett (Favre) and I crossing paths.
You've got to try to throw a wrinkle out there. You've got to try to do something to create doubt and change it up. I know he's going to go back and look at some of those things just as I have. But it comes down to players making plays. Hopefully we can try to affect the clock in his head a little bit and affect some of the guys that are trying to help him win also. But we do try to change up as much as we can from time to time. "