Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?
The St. Louis Rams announced Wednesday that they have fired defensive coordinator Tim Walton, and ESPN.com is reporting that the team will officially replace him with Gregg Williams — whom the team hired for this post two years ago.
The team issued a short statement on the Walton firing from head coach Jeff Fisher.
"I would like to thank Tim for his hard work and contributions to our defense. I wish him well in the future,” Fisher said.
Williams wasn't long for the Rams' defensive coordinator position in 2012 after being hired that year by Fisher, when the NFL came calling on Williams that March for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. The league suspended Williams indefinitely, and the Rams were forced to fire Williams and go in a different direction.
The team actually promoted Williams' son, Blake, to the job for that season, and after he struggled to mesh with the staff, Fisher turned to Walton to coordinate the defense in 2013. Clearly, that, too, turned out to be a bad match for the Rams' talented but young personnel.
Now it's back to the elder Williams, who spent last season as a consultant with the Tennessee Titans but was not retained when head coach Mike Munchak was fired. This rehiring is fascinating because as close as Fisher and Williams were for years, working together with the Titans, their relationship had appeared to sour some, especially after Blake Williams was shown the door. Could son rejoin the team and work for Dad on the defensive side of the ball? Who knows?
Williams' chore now will be to improve a defense that allowed a league-worst 68.1 percent passing and 8.1 yards per pass attempt against it, despite a wealth of young talent. There are four first-round picks, two second-rounders and two third-rounders of the team that figure to be key players, all since 2008, so the arrow points decidedly up. With sacks leader Robert Quinn anchoring a strong D-line, the rush really could be special — even in an NFC West division that might have four of the top 10 defenses in the NFL next season.
Walton struggled to develop the type of Fisher wanted. Instead, to protect the young cornerbacks and weak safeties, the Rams played a lot of softer coverages, and the plan backfired. Still, he was expected to retain his job until Williams reentered the picture.
But will the bounty shadow cast its way over this young — and heretofore undisciplined — defense? There's also an issue of trust here. Williams clearly isn't scared of Fisher's recent track record for hacking defensive coordinators, but will the young players buy into Williams' plan considering what happened in New Orleans? He not only fueled the bounty scandal and was a central figure in that culture, but he also turned state's evidence (so to speak) on his former coaches and players when the league threatened lifetime banishment and castration.
It's a fascinating rekindling, though, and there's no doubt that these two — along with longtime compadres Chuck Cecil and Dave McGinnis, also on staff — have combined to watch over some quality defenses over the years. It appears that Fisher is all in with his old buddy, especially when he probably could have outbid the Buffalo Bills for Jim Schwartz, another old Titans friend, had Fisher known he wanted to replace Walton.
Chalk up the Rams as one of the more intriguing teams for next season. There isn't a shortage of talent, nor of fascinating storylines, the Williams one pretty high among them.
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