Fisher cleared Williams' hiring with Goodell

News-DemocratFebruary 14, 2014 

— St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he contacted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to get his blessing before hiring Gregg Williams as his defensive coordintor.

"I had conversation with the commissioner who not only endorsed Gregg, but he felt that Gregg would be a good move for this organization," Fisher said.

Williams was introduced -- or is it reintroduced -- as the Rams' defensive coordinator Thursday during a press conference at Rams Park.

Soon after he became the Rams' coach in January 2012, Fisher hired Williams as his defensive coordinator.

Two months later, Williams was relieved of his duties after being suspended by the NFL for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bountygate scandal.

Williams' son, Blake, served as the Rams' defacto defensive coordinator in 2012, but he was fired in January.

Tim Walton served as the Rams' defensive coordinator last season, but he was fired in late January.

Fisher said he didn't feel comfortable in the direction that his defense was going, so he turned to the man who was his original choice as the team's defensive coordinator.

"I gave a lot of thought to the future and direction of our defense, and I have to say I was a little bit uncomfortable," Fisher said. "As a result of that, I reached out to Gregg in late January, and we spent several days together discussing the past, putting the past behind us. Discussing the present and the future and where we wanted to go with our defense.

"Gregg and I came to terms with a lot of things."

Williams declined to discuss the details of those meetings that led to him patching up his longtime friendship with Fisher.

"Those are things that are between Jeff and me," he said. "I've always thought that this was a possibility, I've always thought that this was a great place to be."

Williams, 55, a native of Excelsior Springs, Mo., said he's glad to be back in his home state.

"I grew up 3 1/2 hours from here sitting next to my grandmother who was in a rocking chair, and many nights I grew up listening to the St. Louis Cardinals playing baseball," Williams said. "I few of my idols growing up were Stan Musial, Bob Gibson and Mike Shannon. It's interesting, my opportunity to come to St. Louis, live in St. Louis, being one of the greatest sports towns there is, and the ultimate goal is to help them and help this organization win another championship."

Williams takes over a Rams defense that ranked 15th overall in total defense and third in total sacks with 53 last season.

However, the Rams allowed opponents to complete 68.1 percent of their passes. They also gave up 30 or more points in five of their games, all losses.

"We are judged by how well we tackle and how many points we give up," Williams said. "There are a lot of great defenses in this division, and we need to step up. There were probably a lot of people who were uncomfortable watching the Super Bowl. Not me. I thought it was a great defensive game."

Williams said he is familiar with the Rams' defensive personnel even though he has yet to meet with most of the players. He watched all of the Rams' home games in 2012 during his suspension.

"I sat up there, I was a season ticket holder," Williams said.

Williams said he's happy with the talent level on the Rams' defense.

"When I came here the first time, I liked the nucleus that was here," Williams said. "As I come back a second time, I like the nucleus even better."

Fisher said he wants Williams to handle the defensive schemes, and leave the personnel evaluations to him and General Manager Les Snead.

"I told Gregg this time around that he is going to be a mad scientist," Fisher said. "He's not going to do a lot of player evaluations. I'm not going to take his time up evaluating unrestricted free agents and the draft. I want him to take this defense and run with it."

Williams is known for his aggressive, blitzing style.

Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said he was looking forward to being more of an attacking defense under Williams.

"I would assume we would be pretty aggressive on third down knowing his history," Laurinaitis said. "I'm excited for it because when you know you are going to be attacking and aggressive, it's a mindset. We're going to go dictate to the offense."

Laurinaitis said the Rams have the personnel to blitz successfully.

"We had a lot of success last season when we just rushed four," Laurinaitis said. "I think we have the personnel and the talent with a kid like (linebacker) Alec (Ogletree) to be able to blitz off the edge and with a loose cannon like (safety) T.J. (McDonald) to be able to blitz well. Win or lose, I want to know we are going to go out swinging."

Laurinaitis said he had no reservation in playing for Williams despite the charges that he ran a system that paid Saints defensive players bonuses for knocking opposing players out of games.

Laurinaitis said he has talked with several players who played under Williams, including Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, his former college teammate at Ohio State.

"They say by far the most fun coach they've played far," Laurinaitis said.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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