Hey, look who’s back: Gregg Williams has been hired as a defensive coordinator with the still-rebooting XFL ahead of the spring league’s 2023 season, having been assigned to work with head coach Reggie Barlow (the startup league has not yet clarified which coaches will be working with which franchises), the XFL announced on Thursday. Two other former New Orleans Saints coaches, Jim Haslett and Wade Phillips, are heading teams of their own.
Williams, of course, helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV but ended his three-year run as Sean Payton’s defensive coordinator in disrepute, allowing Alex Smith and Vernon Davis to march downfield uncontested in the final minutes of the team’s Jan. 2012 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Months later, the NFL’s Bountygate investigation resulted in suspensions for Payton, Williams, other assistant coaches and team executives all stemming from allegations that Williams installed a pay-for-injury scheme.
For his part, Williams threw New Orleans under the bus in testifying against his former players and coworkers to support the NFL’s narrative. The relationship between Williams and his old team and its fanbase has been, let’s say, acrimonious ever since.
Known for talking a big game but coaching scared, Williams returned after a one-year ban from the NFL to work with the Tennessee Titans, complete with a bizarre witness protection-style goatee. He had a couple of other brief and unsuccessful stints with the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets after that — at one point bizarrely claiming that he’d turned down 11 interviews for head coaching jobs around the NFL to instead become Cleveland’s defensive coordinator.
Between poorly-timed all-out blitzes and a louche attention to detail, Williams’ defenses have struggled to compete in the NFL while yielding too big plays too often, whiffing on too many tackles, and committing a lot of penalties. Maybe he’ll find more success against a lower level of competition in the XFL.