Gregg Williams and Jeff Fisher first worked together in 1994 in Houston with the Oilers. This relationship continued unabated until 2001 when Williams was hired as a head coach in Buffalo. In 2012 when Fisher moved on to the Rams the pair were reunited sort of.
Loyalty Even Through Bountygate
During the two year long Bountygate investigation that led to a bevy of suspensions in the NFL. This resulted in year-long mandatory unpaid vacations for both Williams, and his head coach in New Orleans Sean Payton. During this investigation Mickey Loomis, and Sean Payton opted to fire Gregg Williams.
This led to Fisher hiring Williams as his defensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams. However this suspension led to a push back from the fans and ownership forcing Fisher to fire Williams before he coached a single game. What began as an indefinite suspension ended up just being the 2012 season.
He was rehired by the Titans quite obviously under a different head coach. This stint in Tennessee was short lived lasting just the 2013 season. After which his good buddy Fisher came calling once again in need of a defensive coordinator, a position Williams would hold for three more seasons under Fisher.
When Jeff Fisher was fired by the Rams his staff went with him. Fisher quietly walked into what was a essentially a short retirement. Meanwhile Williams landed on his feet once again, this time with the Cleveland Browns for the 2017-2018 seasons.
Williams again found another defensive coordinator position. This time with the New York Jets in two seasons. In 2019 he led the Jets defense to a 7th overall ranking including a 2nd ranked rush defense. Williams was fired in December after a now infamous zero blitz against Derek Carr who hit a streaking Henry Ruggs for a touchdown.
Since then Williams was out of coaching. In early 2022, Fisher was announced as a head coach once again and this time with the USFL for their 2022 season. Fisher was a huge asset for the league in many ways, including his experience on the NFL Competition Committee. One big reason why he was a huge hire was the coaches he could lure to the USFL.
One of those names was expected to be Gregg Williams. However instead, the Panthers opted to hire Dan Carrell a man who had no previous ties to Fisher. If not for a mutual friend, Carrell might never make it to the USFL. However it’s likely fairly obvious that Fisher’s first choice was the man he hired twice as his defensive coordinator in the NFL,spending over a decade together at the NFL level.
What Stopped a Fourth Stint Together?
The question is what prevented them from reuniting for a fourth time? Was it their lack of success at prior stops? Or was it that green stuff that makes the world go round? If you guessed money you likely aren’t far off base. Williams has and always will be one of the more highly sought after defensive coordinators in the coaching world. With this comes a high price tag, a price tag that the USFL simply couldn’t match.
According to Glassdoor.com the XFL was offering some coaches around 65,000 for the up to a 13 week season. A man like Williams is likely earning much higher than that. If I had to guess we are talking about somewhere well north of six figures. Granted that is a steep hike over other coordinators according to this information as stated before Williams is as expensive as they come. If you want NFL quality coaching it comes with a price.
Unfortunately we as Spring Football fans don’t get to see Fisher and Williams together again. However I for one am just happy we get to see both of these prominent names lending their credibility to these upstart spring leagues that need the help garnering player and fan attention. Bringing in recognizable names as coaches was priority number one for the XFL, now it remains to be seen who they get to play quarterback.
Could Williams Have Spurned the USFL?
It was reported current defensive coordinator Daniel Carrel best known for his time with Houston coaching several NFL linebackers was hired late. This report goes on to state that Coach Fisher had a candidate lined up but something changed leading that candidate elsewhere.
Could this have been Williams all along? Could an offer from the XFL have been the only thing stopping Williams and Fisher reuniting?
To put into perspective how much money Williams would have had to leave on the table to go to the USFL, we can look to one of the reported salaries for a USFL head coach. Skip Holtz a rather large name in the college football world, signed a four year deal for $94,000 a year. If that’s the case, Fox likely isn’t willing to pay their coordinators more than that. Perhaps this is why we some lesser known names at the coordinator positions.
The USFL has primarily been built by coaches that came from smaller schools, or made the leap into a position they saw as an upgrade at the time. What you don’t see, is a bunch of former NFL coaches, because quite frankly, the USFL doesn’t pay enough to lure these guys. It seems the XFL realized this and made the necessary adjustments to do so.
Name Recognition Is Key
If there is one thing the XFL has taken to heart, it’s that NFL connections are important for the casual fan. When you’re able to bring in men like Rod Woodson, Terrell Buckley, Anthony Becht, Hines Ward, Wade Phillips, and Jim Haslett. As well as coordinators like June Jones, Jonathon Hayes, Ron Zook, and more big names that are well known by college and NFL fans alike.
If there is one facet of starting a league from “Scratch” its the fact that name recognition can not be oversold in terms of its importance. Bringing in players, coaches, and even owners that fans know and love, builds a foundation for the fan base to stand on. Leaving them invested in your product, if for no other reason than the people involved.
With that being said, but the XFL already has enough of this fact sprinkled throughout their staffs, that regardless of the players they sign I will be tuning in to see how these coaches do. I am sure I am not the only person thinking this given what they have done so far. The same can not be said about the USFL, on as widespread a manner as the XFL. Which could be part of why we saw lackluster fan support at times. There weren’t as many reasons external to the actual games drawing eyes.