Twenty-one years ago, the Buffalo Bills were entering what would later be known as “The Drought,” seventeen consecutive seasons of a lot of losing, never making the playoffs, and a continuous rotation of head coaches that couldn’t move the needle.
In 2001, under then-team president and general manager Tom Donohoe, the Bills replaced head coach Wade Phillips and hired Gregg Williams, who previously served as the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator. Under Williams, the Bills experienced some of their most disappointing seasons, ending with a 17-31 record.
ALL the latest Bills news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bills newsletter here!
During his first season as head coach, the Bills went 3-13. In 2002, with quarterback Drew Bledsoe leading the team, the Bills finished the season 8-8. In 2003, the Bills regressed once more and finished the season 6-10, after which the Bills let Williams’ contract expire, per USA Today.
Williams continued to work as a defensive coordinator across several NFL teams, including the Washington Commanders, Jacksonville Jaguars, and most controversially, the New Orleans Saints. While Working under Saints head coach Sean Payton, Williams helped the franchise win Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.
After three years in New Orleans as the team’s defensive coordinator, Williams took on the same role with the St. Louis Rams. However, he never coached a game as soon after he was hired, the Bountygate scandal broke, and Williams was suspended for the 2012 season.
After he was reinstated, Williams bounced around as a defensive coach for the Titans, Rams, Cleveland Browns, and the New York Jets. During his tenure with each franchise, save for one season with the Browns, every team recorded losing records.
Williams has been absent from the NFL since he was fired by the Jets in 2020, but now he’s returning as a defensive coordinator for the XFL’s 2023 season. The XFL announced on Thursday, June 9 that Williams will be working under head coach Reggie Barlow.
Twitter Strongly Reacted to the News of Williams’ New Coaching Job
Twitter flooded with disparaging comments from fans and analysts after they learned Williams, 63, would once again be on the sidelines. ESPN NFL Nation reporter Rich Cimini tweeted on Thursday, “Gregg Williams, fired by Adam Gase the day after his infamous Cover-0 blitz vs the Raiders, is back.”
Cimini is of course referring to Williams calling an ill-advised all-out blitz against Derek Carr and the Raiders in December 2020 as defensive coordinator of the Jets, blowing a 28-24 lead in the last minute of the game. A “Cover 0” play is when there’s no safety behind the play to help out with coverage, as defined by Sports Illustrated‘s Dan Gartland, which allowed an easy touchdown for receiver Henry Ruggs. Williams was fired the next day.
Following the XFL announcement, one person joked, “What happened to all those NFL head coach offers he said he had?” referring to Williams’ infamous bizarre comments in October 2018, during which he claimed that he turned down 11 head coaching interviews and rejected four flat-out offers from various NFL teams in order to become the Browns’ defensive coordinator.
NBC Sports Michael Davis Smith reported at the time, “The idea that four different NFL owners were willing to just hand the reins to Williams without even asking him to come in for an interview is ridiculous.”
Williams continuing to have any role as a coach, even in the XFL, baffled many. One man tweeted, “Gregg Williams in the XFL, this should be an absolute disaster,” while Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski found the whole situation hilarious. Sobleski tweeted, “It’s even funnier when you realize Gregg Williams signed on as a defensive coordinator, not a head coach. 😆”
Williams Has Been Called Out for Dirty Hits Against Josh Allen & More
It’s safe to say there’s no love lost between Williams and Bills Mafia, especially after he became the defensive coordinator for the team’s AFC East rival. While the Bills beat the Jets 17-16 in Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season, numerous dirty hits against quarterback Josh Allen were assumed to be the mastermind of Williams.
That same year, then-Browns star Odell Beckham Jr. called out Williams for dirty plays from the 2017 preseason, when he was a member of the New York Giants, against — coincidentally — the Browns, the team which Williams was coaching at the time.
Beckham said Williams’ focus on “dirty plays” was ultimately responsible for causing the ankle injury, which changed the course of his entire career. “It’s preseason. It’s like a known rule. In preseason, nobody in the NFL’s really out to do stuff like that,” Beckham told reporters.
“You gotta watch out for the cheap shots and dirty hits and all the things he likes to teach,” Beckham continued. “If I was a coach, I would never teach what he teaches. But that’s just him and what he does.”