Adam Gase has begun filling out his staff, picking two aggressive coordinators to run the defense and special teams. The Jets made it official Wednesday and named Gregg Williams their defensive coordinator. They also announced they are bringing back Brant Boyer to lead the special teams. Boyer was hired by Todd Bowles in 2016, and Gase chose to keep him on staff.
Gase said his focus at the outset would be on working with and developing quarterback Sam Darnold, and he wanted someone with head-coaching experience to be in charge of the defense. Gase hasn’t named an offensive coordinator, but even if he does, Gase has said he would be the one calling the plays.
Williams, 60, is coming off a season in which he was both the defensive coordinator and head coach of the Browns. After Cleveland fired Hue Jackson in October, Williams guided the Browns to a 5-3 record as interim coach. Cleveland went in a different direction after the season and promoted offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens to be head coach. Williams was let go, and the Jets made sure he wasn’t unemployed too long.
“I met him a while back,” Gase said Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I’ve always appreciated competing against him. It was always a challenge, always loved the way his guys played, the intensity they played with, they defended every blade of grass. I mean, they would always get after it.
“It was always really tough to move the ball, it was tough to get in the end zone, and you knew you were in for a 60-minute battle. His guys just always played exactly the way you want a defense to play.”
The Jets used a 3-4 under Bowles and former defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers. Williams employs a 4-3 scheme, and his defenses usually are attacking, blitz-heavy and successful. He has had seven top-10 defenses since 2000.
Williams’ NFL coaching career began in 1993 as a defensive assistant with the Houston Oilers. He continued to rise through the ranks to special teams coach, linebackers coach and defensive coordinator with the Houston/Tennessee franchise.
Williams’ defense helped Tennessee reach the Super Bowl after the 1999 season, when the Titans lost to the Rams. The following year, the Titans had the No. 1-ranked defense in the league.
Williams also served as defensive coordinator for the Redskins, Jaguars, Saints, Rams and Browns. New Orleans won the Super Bowl following the 2009 season, Williams’ first as its coordinator. The next season, the Saints finished fourth in total defense.
But Williams was suspended by the NFL for the 2012 season for orchestrating a bounty program during his three years with the Saints for his players to get cash for knocking opponents out of games.
Boyer’s group was one of the few bright spots of the Jets’ 4-12 season. Andre Roberts and Jason Myers made their first Pro Bowls. Roberts led the NFL in punt-return average (14.1 yards), was second on kickoffs (29.4) and led the league with eight returns of more than 50 yards. Myers set a record with five field goals of 55 yards or more.