The New York Jets fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on Monday, one day after his controversial play call led to a last-second loss.
Assistant head coach Frank Bush was named interim defensive coordinator, the team announced.
“I just felt like that was the best thing for our team moving forward,” Jets coach Adam Gase said Monday. “Organizationally, we had a discussion this morning and we felt like that was the best move for us to make.”
On Sunday, with 13 seconds left and trailing 28-24, the Las Vegas Raiders had the ball at the Jets’ 46-yard line with no timeouts. Williams called for an all-out blitz and zero coverage, which meant the cornerbacks were forced into one-on-one coverage with no assistance from the safeties.
The Raiders’ Derek Carr hit Henry Ruggs III, working against undrafted rookie cornerback Lamar Jackson, for the game-winning touchdown pass.
“I obviously wasn’t happy about that call,” Gase said. “That was a heartbreaking way for our guys to lose that game. For that to happen and in that situation, it was just, just … We can’t have that happen.”
After the game, Williams’ play call was much maligned, even by his own players.
“That situation, just has to be a better call,” safety Marcus Maye, New York’s defensive captain, told reporters. “We got to execute, but you got to help us out at the same time.”
He added: “We fought hard to put ourselves in the position to win,” he added. “That’s the point in the game we’ve just got to be in a better call.”
Instead, the Jets lost 31-28 at home to fall to 0-12.
“I could not believe they all-out blitzed us,” Carr said. “When I saw that, I was thankful.”
Former Jets and Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan said he couldn’t believe the call, either.
“Dumbest call I’ve ever seen,” Ryan said. “Been around the thing for 58 years, 30 years as a coach. That’s the dumbest call ever. There’s no other way of putting it.”
“There’s a time and a place for cover-zero,” Ryan added. “That sure ain’t it. It’s just stupid. It’s just absolutely stupid.”
That game might have represented the Jets’ best chance to avoid an 0-16 season. They close with games against the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, who are a combined 31-17 and all at least .500 on the season.
Williams, 62, has a long history as an NFL defensive coordinator, and he also was the Bills’ head coach from 2001-03 and the Browns’ interim head coach in 2018. He is best known for his year-long suspension in 2012 in connection with the bounty scandal when he was the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. The NFL found Saints players were paid for causing injuries to opponents that would force them to leave games.
He was in his second season with the Jets. Through 12 games this year, the Jets are 30th in scoring (29.4 points per game), 29th in overall defense (398.8 yards), ninth against the run (107.8 yards) and 31st against the pass (291.0 yards).