Slow news day for the Redskins though there's a lot of sunshine left. Pretty much every sentence of the following post is going to reflect thusly, so let me just caveat it all by saying: At the risk of sounding like a Gregg Williams apologist...
I'll go further: Gregg Williams made some ginormous mistakes in 2006 and we should view those as relevant as his past accomplishments with this team and elsewhere.
Ok, that is out of the way. CNYSkinsFan from War Cry! put up a lengthy post yesterday taking a broad look at the Off-Season Game Plan 2007 Overview. On a day where there isn't much else to read (you could check out Curly R's Season In Review Finale -- just saying), do yourself a favor and go be literate. Nothing new in the piece news-wise, but he writes (needless to say) better than yours truly and itemizes a fairly reasonable offseason strategy that receives my tentative endorsement. The part that I'm going to focus on isn't really the central theme of his post, it's just something I read in the article that made me think. Here goes:
In all fairness to CNY do not view the above as the central thrust of his piece. It isn't a Gregg Williams bash fest. But like him I view our 3rd -> 9th -> 31st precipitous, sequential drop in defense as somewhat concerning. As a fan it is difficult to ignore and quite easy to connect the dots; over time, Gregg Williams' defense gets worse.
I want to dispel that concern. There are explanations for the junctural drops that aren't entirely schematic or coaching. Furthermore there is a history prior to his arrival that speaks to his accomplishments in the first link of that chain. Viewing the causal chain without recognizing that first chain for what it is (a phenomenal coaching accomplishment) doesn't paint an accurate picture of what we have in Gregg Williams.
You might remember that in January of 2003, George Edwards, our linebacker coach, was upgraded internally to Defensive Coordinator to replace a Cincy-bound Marvin Lewis. Edwards had the benefit of Lavar Arrington and Champ Bailey who were both pro-bowlers that year.
You cannot fault Marvin Lewis' scheme as he left us with a pretty damn good defense: 4th in total yards (though they were 21st in points allowed). So George Edwards inherited a good scheme (which was the entire reason we upgraded him -- there was an emphasis on schematic continuity) with good players. He swiftly turned the 4th ranked defense into the 23rd ranked D in the league. George Edwards quite simply was in over his head and has since returned to coaching Linebackers in Miami. He's a damn fine Linebackers coach. Not DC material.
Gregg Williams inherited no scheme, rather bringing his own. He inherited no Champ Bailey who was promptly traded to Denver for Clinton Portis. The only other defensive pro-bowler at the time, Lavar Arrington, was injured in week 2 and would not really return for the rest of the season (he closed out the last two games but didn't record much production). As mentioned above the defense was bad -- 23rd yards, 24th points. In other words, Gregg Williams inherited a shitbrick house.
And he turned it into the 3rd best defense (5th scoring) in the league or, worded differently, the best damn defense the Redskins had seen in over a decade. This incredible accomplishment was wholly consistent with what he had done defensively in previous jobs at Tennessee and Buffalo (I won't bore you with the details). It was consistent with his coaching pedigree which included the legendary Buddy Ryan. As recently as 2004, Gregg Williams could do no wrong according to fans.
Whether or not there was a precipitous fall in defensive play between 2004 and 2005 is subject to debate, but let me at least introduce the possibility that the same defense persisted and that the ranking differences (9th in yards and scoring in 2005) was more the result of a resurgent NFC East than anything else. In 2004 the East had 3 very mediocre 6 win teams. In 2005, well, you know that drill.
Mistakes were made in 2007, many by Gregg Williams -- particularly regarding personnel decisions (just horrible). But there were extenuating circumstances that caused our clearly precipitous fall from a top 10 D to a bottom feeder. Pierson Prioleau could have mitigated the failures of Adam Archuleta if he hadn't been tackled by the field in our first game. Shawn Springs could've played more than (effectively) half the season.
Do those two injuries explain a 9th -> 31st fall from grace? No, you'd have to introduce Archuleta, Andre Carter's half-season inexistence, letting Ryan Clark and Walt Harris (I mean, what's that guy done since, anyways?) bail, and a regression by middle linebacker Lemar Marshall, among other things. All these were coaching issues and Williams is accountable.
But one bad year does not ruin a career, and my memory isn't so short to forget that one time a man named Gregg Williams turned a dogshit defense into a top 5 unit. Can lightning strike twice?
It better. Because two consecutive bad years is enough for reevaluation in the N.ot F.or L.ong.