Gregg Williams, the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator, has been hired as the Buffalo Bills next head coach, The Associated Press has learned.
Williams was hired today and will be in Buffalo on Friday to be formally introduced to the media, an NFL source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bills president and general manager Tom Donahoe told the news to the three other candidates by phone.
The Bills declined comment but were preparing to release a statement regarding Williams about 3:30 p.m. ET.
A Surprise Pick
Williams' hiring was considered a surprise, as he was going up against the defensive coordinators — Baltimore's Marvin Lewis and New York Giants John Fox — of the two teams that met in the Super Bowl.
Lewis was considered the initial front-runner because he carried the best credentials, overseeing what many considered to be the NFL's top defense of all time. This past year, the Ravens allowed the fewest points in a 16-game season and held the Giants offense to no points in Baltimore's Super Bowl victory.
It was considered a plus, too, that both Lewis and Fox were with Pittsburgh when Donahoe served as the Steelers' director of football operations.
Also in the running was ex-Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who joined the New York Jets last month.
Under Williams, the Titans defense finished first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed this past season.
Defensive coordinator in Tennessee for the past four seasons, Williams broke into the NFL as the franchise's first quality control coordinator in 1990 when the Titans franchise was based in Houston. He also worked as the team's linebackers and special teams coach.
Considered organized to a fault, Williams' stock rose dramatically with the Bills following his interview with Donahoe on Jan. 26. A day later, Williams pulled out of the running for the Cleveland Browns' head coaching position, which eventually went to University of Miami's Butch Davis.
Titans general manager Floyd Reese said Williams' past experiences groomed him to be a head coach
Other Candidates Disappointed
"He's not just a one- or two-year wonder. He's somebody that has paid his dues and worked his way through," Reese said. "He's developed some really, really strong opinions about things that he believes you need to do."
Calling Williams organized to a fault, Reese added: "He's very, very organized, meticulous, hardworking, very bright. Depending on what you're looking for, he has an awful lot of very, very strong attributes."
Reports indicate that Williams' first move will be to bring with him Titans defensive backs coach Jerry Gray and appoint him as the Bills defensive coordinator.
Lewis' agent, Ray Anderson, was dismayed over the Bills' decision.
"We just are disappointed in the process and the lack of any consistent dialogue or communication during the process," Anderson said, adding that Donahoe informed Lewis of his decision about 1:15 p.m.
Anderson said the Ravens approached Lewis, offering him a pay raise as a reward for helping the team win the Super Bowl. Anderson said Art Modell's offer did not include any monetary figure and did not sway Lewis from pursuing the Bills' job.
Lewis completed the second year of a three-year deal that paid him about $900,000.