Gregg Williams won a Super Bowl in New Orleans. He also was suspended for a year for organizing a bounty scheme with the Saints.
Williams, elevated from assistant to head coach of the Cleveland Browns when Hue Jackson was fired Monday, has quite the resume for his work building aggressive and usually successful defenses. That resume, though, is tainted by what went down in New Orleans.
Williams, now 60, helped the Saints win their only Super Bowl as defensive coordinator from 2009-11. His unit, led by Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma and Darren Sharper, gave up lots of yards and often was bailed out by a top-ranked offense.
What that unit — and every one Williams handled whether as a D-coordinator or as head coach in Buffalo — had was an attacking style. Unfortunately, according to an NFL investigation, that led to head-hunting for money.
And to one-year suspensions in 2012 for Williams and his boss, Saints coach Sean Payton.
The NFL found that Williams put in place while in New Orleans a rewards system for hits on opponents with intent to injure, including increased payments for tackles that knocked an opposing player out of a game, called “cart-offs.” If the Saints’ defense knew of an opponent’s previous or lingering injury, they would target it.
Injuring such stars as Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers drew “special” rewards, the league found.
Some players also said Williams did the same when he worked for the Bills and Redskins; others refuted that.
“I want to coach defenses that are respected, and they’re respected when they’re feared,” Williams said while working for the Saints. “None of the things we do is cheap. They’re aggressive. What we do is, we’re going to play hard, and here’s the deal, we’re not going to apologize. I’m not going to apologize for how hard our guys play and I’m not going to apologize if they’re trying to lay the wood on everybody. When the other team is worried about protecting themselves over protecting the ball, we all like that a lot better.”
The league suspension was handed down in March 2012 after Williams had been hired to oversee the St. Louis Rams’ defense. He subsequently was released by the Rams and sat out that year.
Tennessee brought him in for the 2013 season after the NFL ban was lifted, and he moved to the Rams in 2014. Williams was let go at the end of 2016 and joined the Browns under Jackson last year.
While in Buffalo, Williams had a 17-31 record in charge from 2001-03.
Wherever he has worked, Williams has been known for his defensive acumen and for his willingness to speak far more freely than most NFL coaches. That style generally has made him popular with his players — many of the Saints defended his approach when he was there — but his forthrightness also has led to harsh feelings with others.
With offensive coordinator Todd Haley also fired Monday (Oct. 29), Williams was the only remaining assistant with NFL head coaching experience.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed. More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL