Ram Bytes: Fisher's bizarre coaching carousel

2014-01-30T13:05:00Z 2014-02-07T12:16:11Z Ram Bytes: Fisher's bizarre coaching carouselBernie Miklasz bjmiklasz@post-dispatch.com stltoday.com

NEW YORK • At some point, you figure that Rams head coach Jeff Fisher will pick a defensive coordinator, get it right, and stay the course for a while.

Maybe the second time will, as they say, be the charm.

After firing defensive coordinator  Tim Walton, who had the job only one season, Fisher is bringing back Gregg Williams.

Williams was Fisher's original pick for the job when the Rams named Fisher head coach following the 2011 season. 

Yes, the same Gregg Williams who wasn't invited back to Rams Park after serving an NFL suspension during the entire 2012 season. 

Yes, Gregg Williams, father of former Rams defensive assistant Blake Williams ... who was fired by Fisher after the '12 season. 

After all of this _ after an obvious falling out _ Fisher and Williams are back to being BFF. Incredible.  

Let's recap: 

Fisher's original hire was Gregg Williams, who was on the job at Rams Park and planning for the 2012 season when the NFL suspended him indefinitely for his leading role in the New Orleans Saints' "Bountygate" scandal.

G. Williams was reinstated by the league after the 2012 season but the Rams didn't keep his old job open for him. And to top that off, Fisher fired G's son, Blake, who was the Rams' de facto defensive coordinator during the '12 season. 

Blake Williams didn't have the official title of defensive coordinator but essentially was entrusted to run the defense. He supposedly didn't work well with other coaches, and didn't always follow Fisher's suggestions _ blatantly ignoring the head coach's instructions at times. So Fisher sent the young Williams away.  

That led to a confusing job search that ended _ or so we thought _ when Rob Ryan was invited to St. Louis, was given a key to Rams Park, and spent several days with the team's defensive coaches. It was reported locally and nationally that Ryan would be named the new defensive coordinator ... but all of a sudden Ryan was on the way to New Orleans to take over the DC job there. Why didn't it work in St. Louis? It was a "bad fit," supposedly because Ryan likes to run a 3-4 defense, and Fisher strongly prefers a 4-3 alignment. Which made the Rams-Ryan dalliance odd to begin with. 

Next up: Walton, who had been coaching the Detroit Lions' secondary for head coach Jim Schwartz, a former Fisher associate. That didn't last long. Walton is bye-bye already. 

Semantics aside, that makes four defensive coordinators for Fisher in two seasons: G. Williams, B Williams, Ryan and Walton. And now that Fisher is recycling his original DC, that makes five in two years and a month. 

Um, interesting.

It took a long time for Fisher to hire Walton, and it took a long time for Fisher to fire Walton. The Rams' season ended Dec. 29 and Fisher downplayed the possibility of making any coaching-staff changes. 

Until he made one. 

Gregg Williams became available when the Tennessee Titans made a coaching-regime change. Williams spent the '13 season there as a consultant. 

In a heartwarming turn of events _ except for the Walton Family _ Fisher and Williams have reunited.

Blood brothers again. 

I wish I knew the back story here. But I don't, at least not yet. 

But how long was Gregg Williams waiting in the wings?

Williams blew his cover earlier this month when he attended a party at Mike Shannon's restaurant, hosted by Adam Wainwright, to salute retiring Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter. That was on Friday, Jan. 17. STLtoday.com posted some online photos of the event, and one included Williams. 

(And here's the photo, in case you missed it.)

When I saw the photo online I thought it was odd for Williams to be there, hanging out with Cardinals' people and local celebs. Was he living in the STL area? Did he just keep the house/condo that he purchased here when Fisher originally hired him? It's not as if Williams was sitting around St. Louis during the 2013 season. He was down in Nashville, assisting the Titans. 

Was something in the works? Is that why Williams suddenly popped up at Shannon's?

Though Williams' presence at the event was curious, I didn't think it meant anything at the time ... Fisher indicated that he wasn't making any staff changes (of course he wasn't), and a few weeks had passed since the end of the Rams' season. At that point there was no reason to suspect that Williams was back in town, about to make a rather unusual return to Rams Park. 

All of this is very peculiar. 

One question: can Rams' defensive players trust Gregg Williams? After all he named names of Saints people when he chose to cooperate with the NFL's investigation into Bountygate.

Second and related question: after Fisher fired his son, how could Williams possibly come back to the Rams and be all buddy-buddy with Fisher? Dang, that is cold

Third question: is Blake Williams coming back? Apparently not ... but with these folks who the hell knows? Heck, Tim Walton may be back in a few weeks. Just kidding about that. I think. 

Fourth question: Can Williams be an effective coach after being defanged by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in Bountygate? 

Fifth and related question: The Rams already were racking up the personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties; now that Williams' special brand of motivational coaching is back in place, will the 2014 Rammers set a league record for most personal fouls? 

Sixth question: any chance that Fisher makes offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer sleep with the fishes? 

The Gregg Williams' rehiring does makes sense in a significant way. 

Fisher and Williams go back a long time, and Fisher likes to keep things in his coaching "family."

(Well, except for Blake.)

Fisher has two longtime, loyal aides on his defensive staff: assistant head coach Dave McGinnis and secondary coach Chuck Cecil. Both are capable of running the defense. As is Fisher, who has a defensive background.

And maybe that was part of the problem with Walton. 

It's got to be just a little tricky for a young defensive coach _ or an outsider _ to establish authority over the defense with Fisher and his loyal associates watching over his shoulder.

And obviously that happened. And it probably a lot, even though Fisher denied a report (of course he did) that said he'd taken over the defense from Walton during the '13 season. There were, and are, a lot of bosses on the defensive side of the coaching staff. So maybe the only way this will work is if Fisher has a crony in place. 

I'm not defending Walton, who developed an inexplicable fondness for soft "off" coverage defense in which his cornerbacks lined up approximately 80 yards away from the opposing receivers. (Yes I exaggerate, but still.)  The Rams' defense was burned for a completion rate of 68.1 percent, worst in the NFL. They also ranked last in the league by allowing 8.06 yards per passing attempt, and finished 24th with a 94.7 passer rating against them.

The Rams allowed offenses to score 327 points in 2012, Fisher's first season. In 2013, they gave up the same number on defense: 327 points. The improvement wasn't there; if anything the team's young cornerbacks regressed. 

No, this isn't about whether Walton deserved to get sacked.

If anything this termination reflects more poorly on Fisher than Walton, because Fisher made this hire _ choosing the relatively inexperienced Walton over more veteran, proven DC candidates.

And then Fisher rolled on Walton to bring back an old associate. 

I'm baffled by the frequent change and instability at such a crucial position on the staff.

Before we found out that Gregg Williams was indeed returning, this is what I had written to end the Bytes: 

"Frankly, unless it's a Fisher crony, someone from his coaching "family" or a coach already on staff, I don't know why anyone from the outside would want to take the Rams' defensive coordinator post. It's not exactly a shelter for job security." 

Well, now we know. 

Fisher went with a crony.

Fisher is keeping the job in his football family. 

Maybe this time Gregg Williams will stay awhile. 

Thanks for reading ...  

-Bernie 

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Bernie Miklasz

You've read Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch since 1989. Now check out a new video "Breakfast with Bernie" every weekday morning. You'll also see more "Bernie Bytes" around the clock as he posts quick-hit commentaries on a variety of topics.

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