After the usual RECKLESS playcalling of ex- D.C. Gregg Williams cost the Saints’ a trip to the NFC Championship, the team's hired ex-Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo to replace the IDIOT who blew a 3-point lead with 40 seconds to go by—what else—BLITZING when it wasn’t necessary.
If Jeff Fisher wouldn't have come to rescue his BFF Gregg Williams by hiring him as the Rams' new D.C., there's no way in HELL Williams would've been back as the Saints D.C. after what transpired in last week's 32-36 loss to the 49ers.
The WORST 40 seconds in Saints' history (which says a lot given their misery-filled struggles over the last four decades) came on the heels of one of the most joyous moments in Saints' history--which Williams single-handedly RUINED. Down by 5 points with 2:11 left to go, the Saints regained the lead after a HEROIC 34-second, four-play drive that began buried in their own end zone after Akers drilled a 69-yarder downfield. With1:48 left from their own 34 yard line, the Saints scored on Drew Brees' 24-yard pass deep down the middle to TE Jimmy Graham on S.F.'s 42 yard line who ran it into the end zone. Up by 2, the Saints then went for a two-point conversion, succeeding on a short pass to RB Darren Sproles.
With the Saints 32, 49ers 29 and 1:37 left on the clock, the Saints had engineered an improbable comeback against a brick-wall 49er Defense that allowed only 37 rushing yards all day. All the Saints had to do was stop the 49ers from getting into the end zone to propel them into the NFC Championship game. Even Field Goal range wouldn't have been the "kill shot." The Saints Offense' s confidence was in the Stratosphere after their last drive, momentum was on OUR sideline, and OT would've been OURS for the taking.
Unfortunately, the Saints' "One Trick Pony" ex-D.C. destroyed everything by doing the one thing he knows how to do and even can't do THAT well: Blitz. He chose to blitz at the wrong time in the wrong situation against the wrong QB.
Had Gregg Williams done his homework instead of job hunting, we'd have NEVER blitzed Smith at that moment. Without the vast intell-gathering and scouting resources of an NFL team, I used an obscure tool known as "the internet" to uncover two frightening statistics about Alex Smith: 1. He has the 3rd best QBR (96.3) against the Blitz, behind Rodgers (131.4) and Brady (110.9) and 2. He engineered FIVE 4thQ comebacks during the regular season. How did an amateur NFL analyst who lives in the remote marshes of coastal Louisiana know what the Saints' D.C. didn't is one of life's mysteries. Had I or even my dog been the Saints' D.C., we would've no doubt PLAYED IT SAFE at this time, especially with 40 seconds left in the desperate 49ers' season, their one remaining time-out, 67 long yards to the end zone, and VERNON DAVIS on the field.
Not Gregg Williams, who doesn't understand the concept of "Prevent." Instead, he called--what else--Blitz. From SF's 33 yard line, Alex Smith launched a 47 yard torpedo to a wide-open Vernon Davis on the Saints’ 45 before FS Malcolm Jenkins tackled him—20 yards AFTER the catch. Three plays later from the 14 yard line, Smith lobbed one over the middle to Davis AGAIN for a TD in what will forever be remembered as "The Grab" with nine seconds remaining. Thus ended the Saints’ record-breaking season ended in heart-breaking fashion.
“When you live by the blitz, you die by the blitz,” a shell-shocked FS Malcolm Jenkins pondered after the game in the understatement of the year.
All the Saints Defense had to do was keep the 49ers' receivers IN BOUNDS. Instead, Williams had to keep the pedal to the floor, choosing to blitz despite the hard fact the Saints don't have the pass-rushing talent in their front seven nor the shutdown-ability in their backfield to have succeeded. No pressure, no coverage, no NFCCG.
It's not like Williams didn't know the limits of his own players. "I have guys that couldn't catch a cold butt naked in a rain storm right now," he said in early January about his unit's failure to get INTs this season (2nd worst in the NFL.) Yet he did NOTHING to improve the secondary and pass rushing the last two seasons even though he KNEW he didn't have the pass-rushing talent on the line or the big-playmaking skills in the backfield. So it was blitz, blitz, and more blitz.
The entire NFL has had Gregg Williams' number since his debut season as Saints D.C. in '09. A week prior to the Frisco Disaster, 49ers’ Head Coach Jim Harbaugh said he knew what the Saints’ Defensive game-plan would be from the mountain of film in the NFL’s vault. “You’ve seen, and you saw even more as the season went on as you watch each and every game. It’s a high volume, no question about it…They’ll play a four-down line front. They’ll play a three-down line front. Overload pressure. Standard cover-2. They’re a coverage team, as well, and do that very well. A lot of things that we’re working through right now as we prepare…for this game.” So much for "the element of surprise" Williams' multiple defensive packages and exotic blitzes were suppose to bring. Williams' D was the most predictable on the face of the earth in '11; they blitzed 365 times during the regular season, the second most in the NFL. Opponent after opponent, Head Coaches have said "the Saints blitz getting off the bus."
For the delusional few who believe Williams' success had anything to do with the Saints winning Super Bowl XLIV, here's the truth: the one man who made a difference on Defense in '09 wasn't Gregg Williams. It was DARREN SHARPER. In '09, the Saints led the League in Pick 6's and were 3rd overall in INTs. Nine of those 26 were Sharper's. In '10 when Sharper was injured most of the season, the Saints' went from first to WORST in the League in INTs with a grand total of NINE that season. This year, we improved to SECOND WORST with the same grand total of NINE.
Interceptions aren't the only thing the Saints' D has stunk at under Williams. In '11, the Saints' Passing D was 30th overall and was LAST in Tackles (672.) You know there's a problem when the player who leads the team in tackles and sacks is Roman Harper.
Life can't get much worse under our new D.C. Spagnuolo; in fact, there's a lot of reason to believe it will get much, much better...and soon. Yes, he wasn't effective as a Head Coach in St. Louis' this doesn't make him the first or last coach better suited being a GREAT Coordinator which he was with the New York Giants in '07-'08 prior to taking the Rams' job. In the '07 season, Spags' D made Tom Brady run for his life in Super Bowl XLII, sacking Brady five times--the most he'd ever been sacked in one game at that time in his storied career. Before his stint in NY, Spagnuolo was an Eagles' Assistant Coach on Defense from '99-'06. During that time, the Eagles went to four NFC Championship Games.
Except for running a 4-3 scheme, Spags is nothing like Williams (thank God.) Spags doesn't do a lot of blitzing; he focuses on creating pressure from his front four down lineman thus freeing up the secondary to play man-to-man coverage. DLines are Spags' area of expertise and his track record with NYG proves he knows how to both build and get the most from his Front Four. Look what he did with Strahan & Umenyiora , and Tuck in New York; in '07, the Giants led the NFL in sacks (53.) By contrast, the most sacks the Saints have had under Williams is a pitiful 35 ('09.)
Hmmm, 53 vs. 35--does Spags know something Williams doesn't? Darn tootin' he does: Spags knows how to create a pass rush, something Williams' can't even spell. Spags focuses on finding talent to suit his strategic needs; Williams looked for simple skill sets based on where players stand on the field. All Williams expected from the Front Seven (and a DB or two) was be able to identify the opponent's QB then chase him down; the remaining 2-3 "just" needed to cover a zone that extend for oh, say, 40-80 yards of the field.
Undoubtedly, Spags will shake-up the Saints D roster. The Front Seven will receive a massive overhaul. Face it, the Saints don't have one top-shelf pass rusher. The underperforming and overpaid will receive keys to the street (Bye, bye Will Smith.) The LB corps was neglected under Williams and fallen into ruin. I love Jonathan Vilma, but he spent most of this season having his knee drained before every game and he's expensive. I'm also skeptical Vilma's back-up Jo-Lonn Dunbar is the caliber of player Spags will want as the "QB of the Defense" that the MLB position in a 4-3 requires. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Shanle's getting old. In the backfield, those with coverage strength and playmaker potential will stay; those whom Williams RUINED by turning them into blitzers primarily will go (Nice knowing you, Roman Harper.)
Gregg Williams WON'T be missed. I've been critical of his playcalling all year and I hate to proven right the way he did. What I didn't know until now is what a SNAKE Williams really is. League rules state a team can only contact playoff-bound coaches about vacancies A) with their team's permission & B) only during the Wild Card week & the Bye before the Super Bowl. The Rams interviewed Jeff Fisher on Jan. 5 during the Wild Card week and he formally accepted the position Friday, Jan. 13, the day before the Saints/49ers game. Had the Saints won, Fisher would've had to wait until after the NFCCG if the Saints had made it to request permission to speak to Williams. By that time, Williams would've been the hottest Assistant on the Coaching Market. Maybe Williams didn't see Caldwell's head about to roll or thought there wouldn't be a team left with someone in the front office he hadn't burned before. Either way, the only way Fisher could've secured Williams' as the Rams' next D.C. is if the Saints lost. That's just fact. So either Fish woke up Monday morning and called his BFF Gregg for the first time OR these two SNAKES pulled off a big-time end-run on the League after the Saints' season ended (how convenient.) You tell me.
Photo Credits: Gregg Williams by Zander White/Flickr; Steve Spagnuolo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty