EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — During his formal introduction as the new Vikings defensive coordinator, Alan Williams borrowed a passage from the book of Tony Dungy, which, it just so happens, was originally lifted from the philosophy of Chuck Noll.
“Champions are champions,” Williams said, “not because they do the extraordinary things but because they do the ordinary things better than anybody else. That’s what I think we’re going to do. We’re going to run, were going to tackle, we’re going to hit. We’re going to play smart football, we’re going to play tough football better than our opponents.”
That was the first promise Williams made as the new defensive leader, his reunion with coach Leslie Frazier now official and the biggest move in the shakeup at Winter Park.
Williams’ hiring won’t qualify as a big-splash change. Not yet anyway. But what can be said is that the mutual respect flowing between the new coordinator and his new boss is obvious.
Frazier and Williams spent two seasons together in Indianapolis in 2005 and ‘06, both working with the defensive backs. Williams quickly grew to admire Frazier’s consistency and teaching ability.
Frazier took note of Williams’ positive energy.
“The thing that really stuck out to me was how good of a teacher he was and how well he communicated and related to the players,” Frazier said.
Asked what specifically attracted him to the Vikings’ job, Williams didn’t hesitate.
“The No. 1 thing was the chance to work again with Leslie Frazier,” he said.
Now the duo hopes to unite on a vision to upgrade a Vikings defense that finished 21st overall last season and struggled mightily against the pass. A trust-filled relationship will be necessary for a quick turnaround, especially with Frazier vowing to be more hands-on with the defense in the immediate future, something he might regret not having done more of in his first full year as head coach.
“In 2012, as we’re putting this together, I really want to be involved in what we’re doing and how we’re playing things,” Frazier said. “I really want to make sure we’re headed in the right direction.”
Asked if that meant taking greater control of the play calling, Frazier threw up a stop sign.
“I don’t want to say I want to take it over, now,” he said. “I don’t want to do that. I don’t think it would serve me very well to immerse myself to the point where I can’t oversee some of the things I need to see.”
After 10 seasons working with the Colts secondary, Williams will take his first crack at being a coordinator and should have expertise in aiding the one Vikings position group whose extreme struggles characterized a 3-13 freefall.
“What I do best is to be able to develop a young player and have him at a winning level early in his career,” Williams said. “And when I say early, I mean in the first part of his career, the first year. … What I did in Indianapolis was, I developed the young players so that when a veteran was out, a young player could hold down the fort and play winning football until that veteran, until the starter came back.”
Williams has great understanding of the principles involved in Frazier’s 4-3, Cover-2 defense, familiar with the man-coverage looks and blitz packages his new boss also folds into the philosophy. He also believes the Vikings aren’t as far away as last season’s results might indicate.
In fact, before formally interviewing, Williams assessed the situation and had his interest piqued by the thought of working with guys such as Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway.
Said Frazier: “He realized that as difficult as this season was, that there are still some pieces in place for this to be a great defense.”
Added Williams: “Sometimes the perception when a team does not perform as well as the media thinks, (people) think that it should be blown up and there should be wholesale changes. But I don’t believe that. I think a lot of times it’s a tackle here, an assignment there that allows you to be more successful.”
In other words, the recipe for improvement will begin with Williams’ insistence on doing the ordinary things better.