x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

In the NFL, familiarity does not mean success

Greg Williams, the New Orleans Saints' defensive coordinator, is very familiar with the coaching staff of the New York Giants. That does not make the job of stopping Eli Manning any easier.

The New Orleans Saints know that the best way to stop the Giants starts with giving quarterback Eli Manning a rough time.
The New Orleans Saints know that the best way to stop the Giants starts with giving quarterback Eli Manning a rough time.

Gregg Williams has pretty good knowledge of the coaching staff of the New York Giants.

"Their offensive coordinator [Kevin Gilbride] and I are very good friends," said Williams, the New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator. "We started together at the Houston Oilers in 1990. He was my offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills [when Williams was head coach there].

"I've gone against him in Pittsburgh. I've gone against him in Jacksonville. I've gone against him at the Giants. I know him inside out."

And it does not stop there - Tom Coughlin, the New York Giants head coach, has tried to recruit Williams to his staff a few times before.

"He asked me to talk about going down there to interview with him at that time, and I ended up going to the Redskins," Williams said.

"I have a lot of respect for Tom Coughlin for a lot of years. There were a lot of years I was in Tennessee and he was in Jacksonville, and then I was at the Redskins in the division and him with the Giants."

Such is the coaching fraternity in the NFL that sooner or later the family tree of one coaching staff does criss-cross with that of another, and Monday night's game (5.30am Tuesday morning, UAE time, ESPN), featuring the Giants at the Saints is certainly no exception.

For Williams, regardless of the coaches on the New York sideline, it will all come down to how he and his defence stop Eli Manning, the Giants quarterback.

"The big thing with Eli is that I think he's playing very, very well," Williams said.

But that statement would find some contradiction from New York fans. Peyton's little brother has had a rough go of it the past three games with four interceptions against five touchdown passes. Coincidentally, the Giants (6-4) have gone 1-2 over that span.

For Williams, stopping New York begins and ends with stopping Manning.

"I think he's having a very good season," Williams said. "He leads the National Football League in the most number of deep shots. He leads the National Football League in deep completions ... Eli has done a very good job in being able to get the ball in the playmaker's hands."

But he will be without one of those weapons as the Giants placed Michael Clayton, the wide receiver, on injured reserved with a torn meniscus in his knee.

On top of that, New York's offensive line is in a state of flux - with Will Beatty out with a torn retina, the Giants will either move David Diehl from left guard to left tackle or start Stacy Andrews, the back-up.

Neither Coughlin nor Diehl would say who would get the start at tackle, but it is not much of a choice - Andrews has not started a game this season and has never started a game at left tackle in his eight NFL seasons.

So perhaps Williams's job, and that of his defence, is just that much easier.

"They maximise the skills," Williams said. "They're going to take the things that a particular athlete does and fit them into their deal, but then maximise those things and only ask them to do certain things ... We do that here. Sean [Payton, the New Orleans head coach] does a great job maximising what Pierre [Thomas] does, and Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and Darren Sproles."

Of course he does. Payton, after all, was an assistant with the New York Giants from 1999 to 2002.

Did we say it was a small league?


UAE TV: 5.30am, Tuesday morning, ESPN