Gregg Williams hired as New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator

Posted by Mike Triplett and Teddy Kider, The Times-Picayune January 15, 2009 9:15AM

The Saints made their first big free agent acquisition of 2009, agreeing to terms with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on Thursday morning. Terms of the deal were not immediately available.

One of the most respected defensive minds in the game and one of the most coveted candidates on the market, Williams will take over a Saints defense that ranked 23rd in the NFL in yards allowed and tied for 26th in points allowed last season.

“A lot has gone into this decision, and we targeted Gregg as the coach we’d like to hire after our first interview because he was so impressive and prepared,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said in a statement. “As an offensive coach, I have game-planned against his defenses in the past, and I know the problems they create. He’s an aggressive coach, but his units are always sound fundamentally. We have some pieces in place for him to work with, and I know he’s excited to get started.”
“Gregg is a tremendous addition to our coaching staff,” General Manager Mickey Loomis added. “We were looking for a coach with experience, a proven track record of success and a clear philosophy on where the improvements needed to be made on our defense and that process.”

Williams, 50, is known for running aggressive, attacking 4-3 schemes that put heavy pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That would make him a perfect fit in New Orleans, where the Saints have struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback and force turnovers.

One of his top priorities will be to maximize the talents of defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant, both of whom have struggled with injuries and inconsistency since signing hefty long-term contract extensions in the past two years.

Williams built standout defenses as a coordinator with Tennessee from 1997-2000, as a head coach with Buffalo from 2001-2003 and as a coordinator with Washington from 2004-2007. He spent last season with Jacksonville on a one-year contract, but he and the team mutually decided to part ways after a disappointing season, in which the Jaguars finished 5-11 and ranked 17th in the league in total defense.

Williams quickly emerged as the Saints’ top candidate after they fired coordinator Gary Gibbs last Wednesday. Williams flew into New Orleans that night and interviewed with the team a day later. Since then, the Saints looked into other possible candidates but kept their primary focus on working out a deal with Williams.

His agent, Marvin Demoff, said last week that Williams did not know Saints Coach Sean Payton very well before the meeting, but that after coming to New Orleans his interest in the job was “definitely stronger.”

“He was extremely impressed with everything in the organization, from Sean on Down,” Demoff said.

Williams was reportedly on several teams’ radar screens. He interviewed last week in Green Bay, and reports out of Tennessee suggested that the Titans would be interested in re-hiring him if they lost current coordinator Jim Schwartz to a head coaching job.

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