The fallout from the New York Jets’ inexplicable decision to call a zero blitz on the game-winning play in Sunday’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders has been swift.
The team’s official statement didn’t explain how it reached the decision to part ways with Williams. Head coach Adam Gase — under plenty of fire of his own — cleared that question up later Monday in a conference call with reporters.
It was his decision.
“I did,” Gase said when asked who decided to fire Williams, per NFL Network’s Kim Jones. “I obviously wasn't happy about that call. That was a heartbreaking way for our guys to lose a game. ... We can't have that happen.”
Gregg Williams did what?
The call was a head-scratcher for even the most casual of football fans and “Madden” players who might deem themselves NFL-ready play callers.
The Raiders trailed by four points with five seconds remaining and stood 46 yards away from the end zone. They had one desperation play to score a touchdown, or the Jets would win the game.
Instead of dropping back multiple zone defenders to guard the goal line, Williams dialed up a zero blitz, meaning that each Raiders receiver faced man-to-man coverage while the rest of the Jets rushed quarterback Derek Carr.
Fastest player on field runs free
One of those receivers facing single coverage with rookie receiver Henry Ruggs, the fastest man in the 2020 NFL draft (4.27 40-yard dash). Ruggs has so far failed to live up to his first-round pedigree out of Alabama in his nascent NFL career. But you don’t need to be well-versed in the nuances of NFL route running and pass defense to outrun a single defender on a go route when you’re the fastest man on the field.
That’s exactly what Ruggs did with his speed and a stutter step, beating cornerback Lamar Jackson, who wasn’t given a reasonable chance to defend Ruggs thanks to Williams’ play call.
Firing of Williams throws cold water on conspiracy theories
The defense was so preposterous that it led to theories that the Jets made the call in a purposeful effort to lose the game to keep pace for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, featuring the top prize of coveted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The firing of Williams — and Gase’s admission that it was his decision — appears to deflate those theories. You can’t really fire a guy for following marching orders to blow a game if that was the plan all along. And in his statement to the media Monday, Gase at least gave the appearance that he genuinely wanted to win the game.
The NFL Network reported that Gase “never imagined” that Williams would dial up that defense and didn’t realize the call was made until he heard “zero” over his head set — just before the ball was snapped — appears to back up Gase’s lack of complicity.
So no. It doesn’t appear that this was all part of a grand tank-for-Trevor plan. Unless there’s an even more convoluted conspiracy at play here.
Let’s not go down that rabbit hole. Not yet, at least.
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