The play call that cost the Jets their first win of the season also cost defensive coordinator Gregg Williams his job.
The Jets fired Williams on Monday and named assistant head coach/linebackers coach Frank Bush the interim defensive coordinator.
Coach Adam Gase said it was his call to relieve Williams of his duties.
Gase said he discussed it with the organization’s chief decision-makers and that they all agreed that the Jets should move on from Williams, whose all-out blitz call resulted in a game-winning 46-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left in the Jets’ 31-28 loss to the Raiders on Sunday.
"I just felt like that was the best thing for our team moving forward," Gase said during a conference call Monday. "Organizationally, we had discussions this morning and we felt like that was the best move for us to make."
Gase said he thought it through Sunday night because he didn’t want to make "a rushed decision" while his emotions were high. He said that when he arrived at the Jets’ facility Monday morning, he still felt it was "what we needed to do."
He then met with CEO Christopher Johnson, president Hymie Elhai and general manager Joe Douglas and they agreed to fire Williams.
Gase, who spoke in a slow and somber tone, said he met with Williams for close to an hour and that the longtime defensive coordinator was upset with his decision.
"I just felt like that was the best thing for our team moving forward," Gase said.
Williams, the defensive coordinator during both seasons under Gase, has a reputation of being extremely aggressive. But this egregious lapse in judgment backfired.
The Jets rushed Raiders quarterback Derek Carr with eight players, leaving rookie cornerback Lamar Jackson in one-on-one coverage on rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, one of the fastest players in the league. Ruggs blew by Jackson and Carr hit him in stride.
Had the Jets been in prevent defense and had multiple defensive backs in or near the end zone, they would have been in much better position to deny a long touchdown pass. Instead, Williams left Jackson on an island.
"I obviously wasn’t happy about that call," Gase said. "That was a heartbreaking way for our guys to lose the game. For that to happen in that situation, we can’t have that happen."
He said he is kicking himself that he didn’t veto Williams’ call. "I wish I would have," he said. "I wish I would have called timeout. But I didn’t."
He later added, "The head coach can tell guys what to call whenever they want. That’s part of the gig. I hired Gregg because I trusted him to make the right calls and run the defense."
The stunning touchdown dropped the Jets to 0-12, and they were devastated by the way the game ended. They had erased an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter, taking a 28-24 lead with 5:34 remaining.
Safety Marcus Maye, a team captain and one of the three Jets in coverage, was very outspoken after the loss and repeatedly criticized the play call. Gase said he understood how Maye felt but added that it wasn’t a deciding factor in removing Williams.
"I know Marcus was upset," Gase said. "That’s why it’s tough to talk after games. Emotions are high. I was in a very similar spot mentally after that game. That’s what made this morning hard.
"You try to think through everything, you try to do what’s best for our team. That’s why the decision that I made was made."
The Jets hired Williams because Gase wanted someone who could run the defense entirely. Gase’s plan was to spend all of his time focused on the offense and on developing Sam Darnold, which obviously hasn’t worked out as he had hoped. Gase gave Williams free reign over the defense, which in the end proved to be a mistake.
The Jets are four losses away from becoming the third team to go 0-16. The 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns are the other two. Williams was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator that year.
It had been believed that if Gase were let go during the season, Williams would take over as interim coach. Now it’s likely that Gase will finish out the season, with Bush running the defense.
Bush has served as assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach the past two seasons under Gase. He had the same role in Gase’s last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
Williams was famously suspended for the 2012 season for Bountygate. During his three years as Saints coordinator, he orchestrated a bounty program in which his players received cash for knocking opponents out of games.
Last season, Williams got immense credit for helping Jamal Adams become more dominant and for the Jets having one of the NFL’s best defenses. They ranked seventh in overall defense and second in rushing defense.
With Adams now in Seattle, the Jets have struggled defensively this season. They rank 30th in points allowed, 29th in overall defense and 31st in passing defense.