NEW YORK (AP) — Gregg Williams’ curious call cost the New York Jets their first win — and the defensive coordinator his job.
A person with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Monday that the Jets fired Williams, whose stunning play call Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders was highly criticized by fans, media and even his own players.
The still-winless Jets were seconds away from their first victory until Williams inexplicably called for an all-out blitz against Las Vegas. Derek Carr heaved a perfectly placed 46-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III — who was in man-to-man, or Cover Zero, coverage with rookie cornerback Lamar Jackson — with 5 seconds left to lift the Raiders to a 31-28 victory.
It left the Jets players, who only moments earlier were celebrating what appeared to be a win, in shock on the sideline. Team captain Marcus Maye took an uncharacteristic swipe at Williams after the game, saying that the defense should have been in a better call in that situation.
It all ended up costing Williams his job.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday because the team hadn’t announced the move.
The 62-year-old Williams had been the Jets’ defensive coordinator the past two seasons under Adam Gase. He has had several stops through the NFL during a 30-year career, including with New Orleans, where he was suspended a year by the league for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal.
It wasn’t immediately clear who would take over calling the defense for the Jets, who are 0-12 and are four losses from joining the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns — where Williams was the defensive coordinator — as the NFL’s only 0-16 teams.
The no-nonsense Williams has made a career of being an aggressive play caller on defense, but the Jets have struggled this year while ranking 29th in total defense and 30th in scoring defense. Williams had to deal with star safety Jamal Adams being traded to Seattle during the summer, linebacker C.J. Mosley opting out because of COVID-19 concerns, and linebacker Avery Williamson dealt to Pittsburgh in the middle of the season.
There were several injuries to contend with, and other veterans such as cornerback Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson not playing well. But the Jets’ defense had mostly done its job Sunday, including a fourth-down stop with 1:37 left. But after the offense went three-and-out with a chance to seal it, the defense took the field again — and Williams’ call cost New York.
While it was a suspect decision by Williams, it wasn’t totally out of character. He has been known for taking risks on defense, daring offenses to beat his blitzes in key moments. This time, though, it had dire consequences for a team that was so close to finally getting a victory.
“We just played the call that the coaches called,” Maye said after the game. “We’ve got to execute, but you’ve got to help us out at the same time and be in a better call at that spot.”
Williams is the first coach on Gase’s staff to be fired, but likely won’t be the last. The Jets are expected to also fire Gase after this season, setting up what should be a busy offseason that will include a coaching search and likely having the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft in April.