If Mike McCarthy is serious about hiring Gregg Williams as his defensive coordinator, he'll have to act fast.
Williams interviewed with the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, then flew to Green Bay to meet with McCarthy on Friday.
Williams' agent, Marvin Demoff, was unavailable for comment on Friday. Nolan's agent, Bob LaMonte, has not fielded calls about his client's interview with McCarthy on Thursday.
Williams is the most accomplished defensive coordinator on the market, and his services are being sought by the Saints as well as the Houston Texans and their deep-pocketed owner, Bob McNair. He'll likely have more suitors if some teams' defensive coordinators become head coaches.
While Nolan was the early favorite to land the position — he was head coach of the 49ers when McCarthy was offensive coordinator in 2005 — it appears his interview wasn't a coronation. One insider told Packer Report he suspected Williams' interview boded poorly for Nolan.
Nolan runs a 3-4 defense, and while it's feasible for a team to successfully change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in one season — Miami, for instance, went from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 this season — a switch could keep the Packers from contending in 2009 because they don't have ideal personnel for the scheme.
Williams, on the other hand, has a proven track record with his aggressive 4-3 defense, and often has put together units stronger than their individual parts. While his one-year stint in Jacksonville this season didn't work, he had guided five top-10 defenses in the previous eight years.
While coordinator in Washington from 2004 through 2007, the Redskins allowed just 19.4 points per game. Before that, he was head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001 through 2003, with his 2003 defense ranking second in the NFL. In 2000 as defensive coordinator in Tennessee, he led the NFL's top-ranked defense, which spearheaded the Titans' drive to the Super Bowl. That group yielded only 191 points, the third-fewest since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule.
None of this means Williams has supplanted Nolan as the favorite. McCarthy has a comfort level with Nolan, which is important considering the defensive coordinator would work with little oversight from the offense-first McCarthy. Plus, Nolan would come cheaper. Nolan is still owed money after being fired by San Francisco, while Williams was the league's highest-paid coordinator in Washington.
McCarthy might want to wait after this weekend's playoff games, too. The New York Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles, and both teams have respected position coaches who are ready to become coordinators. Bill Sheridan is the linebackers coach under Steve Spagnuolo in New York while Sean McDermott is the secondary coach under Jim Johnson in Philadelphia. Both of those teams run essentially the same blitz-heavy 4-3 defense, and one of them will be available after this weekend.
And if McCarthy falls in love with Williams but is unable to land him, an alternative would be Washington Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray, who worked under Williams in Buffalo, Washington and Tennessee.
In the background is Winston Moss, who remains on the Packers' staff as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. Moss has interviewed to be the St. Louis Rams' head coach and is scheduled to interview for that position in Oakland.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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