NY Jets: Sunday’s loss proof of Gregg Williams’ overachieving

NY Jets, Gregg Williams (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
NY Jets, Gregg Williams (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

It took one game for the NY Jets’ defense to prove that the unit was better with Gregg Williams.

After a highly-ridiculed play call that led to the Las Vegas Raiders’ game-winning touchdown last week, the NY Jets fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

With Williams gone, the Jets turned to assistant head coach of the defense and linebackers coach Frank Bush to be their defensive coordinator. And to say the least, things did not improve in the slightest.

The Jets’ defense looked the part of a winless team, giving up a season-high 40 points to the Seattle Seahawks.

In a rather uninspiring performance, the Jets’ pass defense had no answer for the trio of Russell Wilson, D.K. Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett. And they didn’t even have to pass much, given they were averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

It has been known all season that the Jets cannot compete with teams that have the talent the Seahawks do. But what became clear on Sunday was the fact that Williams truly did have the defensive unit overperforming from the moment he came to Florham Park.

The 62-year-old Williams has been in the NFL for a very long time, including 19 years as a defensive coordinator. He came to the Jets in 2019, coming off of being the interim head coach for the Cleveland Browns.

Essentially, Williams was the defensive counterpart to head coach Adam Gase’s offensive mindset.

From the start, things went south for Williams’ defensive unit before the 2019 regular season even began. Linebacker Avery Williamson tore his ACL in the preseason, and no one knew what to make of a cornerback room headed by Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts.

Then came Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.

Four-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley went down in what ultimately became a lost season with a groin injury. The linebacker position became a constant rotation from that point on, with Blake Cashman, Neville Hewitt, James Burgess, and Harvey Langi all starting at points in the season.

Up front, the team dealt an underperforming Leonard Williams, while Quinnen Williams had his own lingering injuries his rookie year. And it didn’t help that Henry Anderson quickly showed that his seven-sack campaign in 2018 was a fluke.

In the end, outside of Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Steve McLendon, and Jordan Jenkins, the Jets had little consistency for Gregg Williams to work with.

Yet the Jets’ patchwork defense was great in 2019. The Jets finished the year seventh in yards allowed, and right in the middle of the pack in points allowed and takeaways.

What was most impressive is how it came with players like Hewitt, Blessuan Austin, and Arthur Maulet receiving significant starting time down the stretch.

For that reason, Jets fans were excited to see what Williams’ could make of the Jets’ 2020 unit. Except, even Williams, coming off of an excellent coaching job last year, couldn’t fix the Jets’ lack of overall talent.

The NY Jets’ defense struggled under Gregg Williams in 2020

They lost Adams to trade and Mosley to opt-out and have been extremely thin at cornerback all year. This season, the Jets ranked in the bottom three in yards and points allowed, and 21st in takeaways with Wiliams.

Nevertheless, even Williams’ 2020 Jets defense rarely looked as lost in the run game as the Jets did on Sunday.

Chris Carson rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on only 12 carries while Carlos Hyde put up 66 on 15 attempts. Even Seahawks wide receivers David Moore and Penny Hart combined for 27 yards.

Of course, maybe the 57-year-old Bush is able to improve his defense over the next three games. After all, the Seahawks do have one of the most prolific offenses in the entire NFL.

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But at the end of the day, Gregg Williams deserves credit for how his Jets’ defense often exceeded expectations given the injures and overall talent.

One boneheaded play call doesn’t change that.