When Tom Donahoe was hired in 2001, one of the first orders of business was to find a new head coach after Wade Phillips left the team. He finally got his man in Gregg Williams on this date ten years ago, passing up John Fox and Marvin Lewis in the process.
Williams had been the very successful defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, and reportedly blew Donahoe's socks off with an amazing interview. The two had only met a week before the hiring.
"I'm eager," Williams said in an interview with The Buffalo News' Mark Gaughan ten years ago. "I'm eager to get started and to meet all the people I'm going to get to work with and to meet the fans of Buffalo.
"I'm an NFL junkie, and the history of the Buffalo franchise intrigued me. The kind of franchise the Bills have, and the great fans there is part of what drew me to the job, what made me want to go all out for it. What a great place to be."
Then this must really intrigue him: Williams' 35% winning percentage is the worst in team history for anyone who coached more than 32 games.
Williams' first order of business was to switch the long-running 3-4 defense to the 4-3 defense and overhaul an old, expensive roster into a young roster. A step back was expected, and the Bills, who had been 11-5 and in the playoffs in 1999, went from 8-8 in 2000 to 3-13 in 2001 under Williams. In 2002, the offense greatly improved with the addition of Drew Bledsoe to rebound to 8-8.
Were the Bills primed to turn the corner? Hardly.
In 2003, the team started the season 2-0, including a thumping of the Patriots in Week 1. But they went into the bye week 4-4 after laying some offensive eggs. After the bye, the descent continued, with the Bills dropping three straight. The team finished 6-10, and with that, so did Williams' tenure as head coach.
Williams did improve the defense every year. In his last season with the Bills, they finished second in the NFL in total defense, and his coordinator, Jerry Gray, was retained by the new coaches after Williams' contract wasn't renewed.