Meet Gregg Williams - Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator
College: Truman State University
NFL Coaching Year: 27
|Gregg Williams enters his 27th season as an NFL coach with a move to the Cleaveland Browns. It was announced in January that Williams will be the team's defensive coordinator.
Williams joined the Rams as defensive coordinator in 2014. Williams’ second campaign at the helm of the Rams’ defense, the unit finished 10th in the NFL in takeaways, sixth in third down defense and 11th in sacks, and 7th overall in DVOA rankings, despite injuries to key starters. The Rams’ defense held their opponents to 33 percent or less on third down in nine of 16 games in 2015. DT Aaron Donald saw his second-consecutive Pro Bowl honor in as many seasons after tying Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins and Carolina’s Kawaan Short for most sacks by a defensive tackle in the NFL, in addition to leading the team in tackles for loss (22) and quarterback pressures (49).
In Williams’ first season with the Rams as the defensive coordinator, the defense boasted one of the league’s best units over the second half of the season. In the team’s last eight games, St. Louis ranked fourth in rushing yards per game (84.4), fifth in points allowed per game (16.8) and tied for fourth in sacks (26). DE Robert Quinn earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl honor along with rookie DT Aaron Donald who capped his season with defensive rookie of the year, in addition to his first Pro Bowl nod.
Williams’ influence in Tennessee in 2013 helped the team make great strides defensively. They ranked 16th in points per game allowed after finishing last in the NFL in 2012. The Titans improved to 14th in total defense last season after ranking 27th the previous year, were 11th in pass defense after a 26th-place finish in 2012, and Tennessee was 7th in the league in third down defense after ranking 21st a year earlier.
Williams presided over five separate top five total defenses during his coaching career: Tennessee Titans (No. 1 in total defense in 2000), Buffalo Bills (No. 3 in 2001 and No. 2 in 2003), Washington Redskins (No. 3 in 2005), and the New Orleans Saints (No. 4 in 2010). As a defensive coordinator or head coach (15 seasons), Williams has coached seven top-ten overall defenses.
Williams coached in New Orleans from 2009-2011. He helped the Saints capture two division titles (2009 and 2011), an NFC Conference Championship (2009), and Super Bowl XLIV, as well as an NFC Wild Card berth in 2010.
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, New Orleans finished fourth-best against NFL quarterbacks by allowing only 75.3 in passer ratings, which directly correlated to the Saints’ allowing the fewest passing touchdowns allowed in the NFL during 2010 (13).
Williams’ impact on the Saints’ defense was impressive as they improved significantly in several categories upon his arrival. 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 a year earlier. Seven of those takeaways were returned for touchdowns. New Orleans had three defensive players named to the Pro Bowl following that season.
Prior to joining the Saints, Williams had a one-year stint in Jacksonville as defensive coordinator/assistant head coach. 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.
Williams’ 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. Williams worked under Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher for 6 ½ seasons with the Oilers/Titans.
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.
Williams is a proud Missouri native, and he’s passionate about giving back to the youth of his hometown. Since 2004, Williams has helped raise more than $1 million for Excelsior Springs young people through the Gregg Williams Foundation. The money raised annually provides two scholarships for Excelsior Springs High School graduates and funds both school and local youth athletics. For more information, visit www.greggwilliamsfoundation.org.
In January of 2016, Williams was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. The induction celebrated his decorated NFL coaching career, as well his unwavering commitment to his home state of Missouri and the mentorship of young men.
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 Truman State University, where he played quarterback and also played baseball. He later earned a master’s degree from Central Missouri.