Friday, May 1, 2009

Saints Nation: The impact of Gregg Williams

As important as any player addition this offseason, the signing of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams signaled the Saints we're in full revamp mode with that side of the ball. He's respected around the league for coming up with the most complex of gameplans and driving offensive coordinators crazy. Combined with Sean Payton there is a chance, provided they don't constantly butt heads, that they will make up the most creatively schemed tandem in the NFL. We've all heard it many times now: Gregg Williams' defense focuses on a player's strengths and puts him in a position to succeed. But how good is he by the numbers? Let's look at how teams did the year before he took over their defense and how they did once he was aboard.

1996 Houston Oilers defense: 6th overall (without Williams)
1997 Tennessee Oilers defense: 22nd overall (Williams' first season as DC)
1998 Tennessee Oilers defense: 16th overall
1999 Tennessee Titans defense: 17th overall
2000 Tennessee Titans defense: 1st defense overall (Williams goes to Buffalo after this season to be their head coach)

2000 Buffalo Bills defense: 3rd overall (year before Williams)
2001 Buffalo Bills defense: 21st overall (Williams' first season)
2002 Buffalo Bills defense: 15th overall
2003 Buffalo Bills defense: 2nd defense overall (Williams goes to Washington after this season to be their defensive coordinator)

2003 Washington Redskins defense: 25th overall (without Williams)
2004 Washington Redskins defense: 3rd overall (Williams' first season)
2005 Washington Redskins defense: 9th overall
2006 Washington Redskins defense: 31st overall
2007 Washington Redskins defense: 8th overall (Williams goes to Jacksonville after this season to be their defensive coordinator)

2007 Jacksonville Jaguars defense: 12th overall (without Williams)
2008 Jacksonville Jaguars defense: 17th overall (Williams' only season)

2008 New Orleans Saints defense: 23rd overall (without Williams)
2009 New Orleans Saints defense: ???????

What the stats show is that he's had some success. Lots of success. He's coached five top 10 defenses and three top 5 defenses. What they also show is that he is not a miracle worker. In his first year with the Oilers, Bills and Jaguars -- the defensive production was down from the previous season. In fact, the Redskins are the only team he's improved defensively in year 1. The trends we saw in Buffalo and Houston/Tennessee were that it took his players a couple years to understand his system before they really got results. Who knows what this means for the Saints, but it might be a little naive to count on him to turn them into a top 10 defense overnight. The good news is we've had the #1 offense in the NFL 2 out of the last 3 years (and 3rd in that other year) so marginal improvement would likely go a long way. Significant improvement could turn the Saints into a bonifide contender. The Saints have also added a lot more talent on defense this offseason, so there is no excuse for a step backwards. While I'm still a big fan of the Gregg Williams hire, what I take from this is that we shouldn't count on him to flip a switch and completely transform the defense overnight. I think he's biggest impact will be felt in year 2, and maybe even 3. Hopefully the offense does not grow out of their peaking performance by then.