Colts Expert Says Williams a Good Fit

While Perry Fewell is the leading candidate to be the DC of the Chicago Bears, Alan Williams is one name they should consider. Colts expert Eric Hartz has the inside scoop on Indy's secondary guru.

Alan Williams joined Tony Dungy's staff in Tampa Bay in 2001 after a few seasons at his alma mater, William & Mary. He was an offensive player in college and began his coaching career coaching both running backs and defensive backs but joined the Bucs as a defensive assistant – one year after Lovie Smith left to become the defensive coordinator in St. Louis. Dungy was fired after the 2001 season but quickly landed in Indianapolis and brought much of his Tampa Bay staff with him, including Williams.

In Indianapolis, Williams has mentored a secondary that has consistently ranked as one of the strong points of an often inconsistent defense. He has worked wonders with an injured group of players, particularly the last two years. Without former Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders for most of the last two seasons, the Colts have finished sixth and 14th in passing yards allowed per game, setting an NFL record in 2008 with just six touchdown passes allowed. This is made more impressive considering that Sanders has played less than eight of those 32 games, cornerback Marlin Jackson has missed nearly a full season with a pair of knee injuries and Kelvin Hayden has also missed several games in that time. With Jackson and Hayden out for several games this season, the Colts spent much of the year starting a pair of rookies, third-round pick Jerraud Powers and undrafted free agent Jacob Lacey, and still remained near the top of league in terms of passing defense.

One thing you'll notice when watching a Williams secondary is a Tampa 2 tenet that Smith would no doubt admire – the Colts don't give up anything deep. In fact, the Colts have finished in the top 10 of the NFL in passing yards allowed per play each of the past two seasons, including an impressive third this year. The Patriots' long pass play this season, where Randy Moss was able to run by Antoine Bethea, was the first play like that I can remember seeing in a long time. You'll also notice that they tighten up near the end zone, and teams often end up settling for field goals against the Colts.

The flip side of that coin is that the Colts do end up giving a fair amount of underneath routes and often play with a bit of a cushion on the line of scrimmage. Big, physical receivers – Denver's Brandon Marshall, for example, or Houston's Andre Johnson – are often effective against the Colts secondary, although it is more in a nickel-and-dime way, which can be frustrating for fans hoping the defense gets off the field. This could be a red flag for Chicago, which has to face Calvin Johnson and Sidney Rice twice a year, but I suspect part of the Colts woes in this area have come from teams picking on the smallish Tim Jennings.

S Antoine Bethea
Getty Images: Stephen Dunn

The Colts do a very good job of keeping their staff together year to year, particularly position coaches. They are an organization that rewards loyalty, but Williams' name does seem to be coming up more, and more and his work with the Colts' secondary has certainly gotten noticed around the league. He was passed over for the defensive coordinator position last winter when Ron Meeks was fired and Larry Coyer was brought in.

Does that mean he would want to leave if an opportunity arises? I can't say, but he'll almost certainly get a glowing recommendation from Dungy, and that would go a long way in Smith's book.

JC's Take: Smith said emphatically at Tuesday's year-ending press conference that the Bears will continue to run his version of the Cover 2, which means any defensive coordinator candidate has to be well versed in that particular scheme.

Considering his track record with Dungy, Smith's mentor, Williams appears to be a fresh choice and not just another retread coordinator like Perry Fewell. On top of that, it's fair to specular that Smith won't want to hire anyone capable of taking his job as head coach any time in the near future, as Fewell did in Buffalo after Dick Jauron was mercilessly axed. While Williams could be a strong head-coaching prospect one of these days, he's still a way's away from being a serious contender.

One thing working against Williams is the fact that the Colts are in the postseason, so he won't be available to interview for several weeks – Fewell, on the other hand, is already scheduled to interview for the DC job Monday at Halas Hall.

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