Gregg Williams' roll of the dice in the final seconds of Sunday's loss to the Raiders has cost him his job.
The Jets (0-12) have fired the veteran defensive coordinator, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. The team announced the decision later Monday. Williams' son, Blake, is also on the staff as a defensive assistant and is expected to depart as well. New York named inside linebackers coach Frank Bush its interim defensive coordinator.
"I just felt like that was the best thing for our team moving forward," Jets coach Adam Gase told reporters Monday on a conference call. "Organizationally, we had a discussion this morning and we felt like that was the best move for us to make."
The winless Jets were this close to earning their first victory of 2020 in what would have been stunning fashion, going toe to toe with the playoff-hunting Raiders for a full four quarters. But when it came down to the final moments, Williams inexplicably called for a zero blitz on third-and-10 with the Raiders essentially needing a miraculous deep shot to win. First-round speedster Henry Ruggs III achieved just that, running past the unfortunate man coverage for a 46-yard scoring pass from Derek Carr with 0:13 left to play.
"I obviously wasn't happy about that call," Gase added. "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."
Williams' defense had forced a turnover on downs in New York's red zone just a little over a minute earlier in what appeared to be the stop the Jets needed to finally win a game, and though the Raiders got the ball back via punt, they did so with 35 seconds remaining, no timeouts remaining and 61 yards to cover.
The Raiders needed a touchdown given their four-point deficit, and Williams' defense did what one would conventionally expect for the first three plays: rush four, drop the rest in coverage, and prevent anything deep. Williams' group started in soft Cover 2, giving up a 15-yard completion to Darren Waller, and then dropped to Cover 3 on second down, in which receiver Nelson Agholor sprinted past deep third safety Matthias Farley, only for Carr to overshoot him.
According to Next Gen Stats' Win Probability metric, the Raiders had a 29 percent chance of victory following the incompletion intended for Agholor. Then Williams dialed up the zero blitz, sending the house in an effort to emphatically end the game with a sack of Carr. Instead, he emphatically ended his tenure in New York.
"I wish I would've" overruled the blitz call, Gase admitted to reporters Monday. "I wish I would've called timeout, but I didn't."
As NFL Network's Michael Silver said Sunday on NFL GameDay Final, "that's just Gregg Williams being Gregg Williams."
"Gase was on the headset talking to another coach. He heard the word 'zero,' and he said 'Huh?'" Silver recounted. "... Before Gase could react, the ball was being snapped. So not an ideal state of affairs."
Carr recognized the looming all-out blitz and checked to a seven-man protection before the snap, per Silver, buying Carr the time to step up into a narrow pocket and launch a prayer to Ruggs. It was answered.
Williams has been known for exotic, risky and sometimes excessive blitzing, which can prove fruitful when timed right, but often hangs his players out to dry. The irony in this situation: Williams is also a coach who was once so afraid to get beat deep, he'd line up a safety -- typically, it was Jabrill Peppers -- 20-plus yards deep during his time as the defensive coordinator in Cleveland, opening up massive space underneath for opponents to exploit for healthy gains while ensuring his unit never gave up the biggest of plays.
He could have used an excessively deep safety to help over the top against Ruggs, who runs a sub-4.3 40 and was the first receiver taken in April's draft primarily because of his speed and athleticism. Instead, he left defensive back Lamar Jackson alone on an island with responsibility of matching Ruggs' elite speed (while running backwards for some of it) in a situation in which one could absolutely guarantee the rookie would be running a streak.
The call will boggle the mind for weeks and months to come -- players on both teams publicly questioned the coverage -- but it won't accompany calls for Williams' job. That part has already been taken care of.