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Gregg Williams pushes, prods Jets defense with tough-love approach

Jets safety Marcus Maye talks to defensive coordinator

Jets safety Marcus Maye talks to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during an organized team actibity at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., on Thursday. Photo Credit: Brad Penner

FLORHAM PARK, N.J.— Gregg Williams said something that made Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams’ mouth drop and probably opened his eyes at the same time.

Williams and the Jets also hope it lights a fire under Adams.

“He’s very motivated by directness,” Williams said Thursday. “I said, ‘I’ve coached a lot better people than you before.’ ”

Williams, the Jets' passionate new defensive coordinator, lists Darren Sharper and Sean Taylor among the safeties he’s coached. But Williams’ words were all by design and done to get more out of Adams

Everything Williams does is done with a purpose and has that underlying ulterior motive of bringing out the best in his players.

Williams has had the loudest voice on the Jets’ practice field, constantly screaming and cursing before and after plays. By design. Williams said it prepares them for everything they’ll face on game days.

“I try to put as much external pressure on them as we can from distractions, voice, fake anger that type of stuff to try and get ready for Sundays,” Williams said before the Jets held their final OTA practice. “Once they get inside the white lines you’ll see a much calmer me on Sunday.”

But Williams exudes attitude, intensity, fire, aggressiveness, brashness and confidence. That, too is by design, as he wants his players to have the same passion, fire and belief when they step on the football field.

“My secrets get out and the reason I keep getting hired is culture,” Williams said. “Culture beats strategy any day of the week. It’s about how you find ways yourself to be tougher, how you find ways to play harder, play smarter, for longer than any opponent you go against.

“Players can smell and feel and know whether you’re conning them faster than coaches do. They see the personal side. I push, prod, and attitude does come first. I tell them attitude is everything. Pick a good one today.”

The Jets are Williams’ eighth team since 1997. New coach Adam Gase picked Williams to run his defense so he can spend most of his time on the offense.

Williams’ resume speaks for itself. Seven times his teams have finished in the top 10 in total defense, and he was the defensive coordinator of the Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV winning team.

He’s a controversial figure as he was suspended indefinitely for his role in Bountygate while with the Saints. But his players revere him. All the Jets' defensive players have raved about Williams, including Adams.

“I love him,” Adams said last week. “You can run through a wall for a coach like that.”

That’s what the Jets are counting on as they hope to end an eight-year playoff drought.

Jets defensive assistant and outside linebackers coach Joe Vitt worked with Williams in New Orleans and said the characteristics of his defense are “you got to be tough. You got to be passionate about what you do and your effort has got to be relentless.”

Vitt testified against Williams in the Bountygate hearings, but they’ve reunited on the Jets and both said Thursday that they’re friends.

With Williams’ pushing and prodding, the Jets’ defense has looked better than the offense on many days the media  watched OTAs. But the offense believes Williams is only helping quarterback Sam Darnold and that unit improve.

“He’s a former quarterback so he does attack the offenses as a quarterback sees it,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “It’s going to help our quarterbacks grow a lot, but I think that’s what creates conflict for other people because Gregg knows how a quarterback sees coverage and protections and he does a really good job attacking those.”

The Gase-Williams dynamic is one worth watching. They both have strong personalities, but they also share a mutual respect and a singular purpose: winning. Williams is close friends with Alabama coach Nick Saban, one of Gase’s mentors. Williams said he always wanted to work with Gase.

“He was already on my list,” Williams said. “As a coordinator going against him, I had a lot of respect going against him. We’ve had a relationship for many years from the games that we’ve competed against each other and it’s been fun in practice, too.

"Respect and trust is earned. He has earned my respect, and earned my trust because we’re working together on the same thing. He’s a very good coach, has a really good mind, and has a challenging mind on what conceptually he’s doing and how he goes about doing it.”

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