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BILLS PLAYERS RELIEVED THAT JOB IS FINALLY FILLED

Gregg Williams was considered a dark horse when the Buffalo Bills went searching for a new head coach. But those who know him best say he has always been a bright light in the coaching profession.

Those same people also feel the Bills are lucky to get Williams, who was hired Thursday as the successor to Wade Phillips.

"Gregg's been very successful at whatever he's done," said Titans coach Jeff Fisher. "Fourteen years ago, he was a high school coach. He's climbed the ranks very quickly, and we expected that. We wish him well. He's going to be successful."

Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell called Williams, "a rising star" as a coach. Sidwell and Williams worked together with the Houston Oilers. Sidwell arrived in 1995 as the team's defensive coordinator, while Williams was already on staff as linebackers coach.

Sidwell said Williams helped teach him a variation of Buddy Ryan's 46 defensive scheme favored by Fisher.

"Gregg's got a sharp mind, he's organized and a very hard worker," Sidwell said. "There's no doubt in my mind that he's just going to do a fine job. Thankfully, he's getting a shot. The Bills should be very fortunate to get him."

Titans' General Manager Floyd Reese expected Williams to be lured away eventually. He had been wooed by several teams in the past, but always resisted leaving the only NFL franchise he'd worked for.

But Reese felt it was only a matter of time before the right situation found Williams.

"I thought if he could get an interview with somebody who was not certain in their mind and that they were open-minded, he would have a good chance at getting it because he's such a good football guy," Reese said. "He's tough, he's very demanding, and he's very straightforward. There will not be a lot of finesse. I think he's going to be fair and honest. But there will be very little doubt about what he wants."

Williams couldn't have asked for a better situation for his first NFL head-coaching job. He inherits a Bills' defense that ranked third in the NFL behind the Titans and Baltimore Ravens. The Bills were No. 1 in 1999.

He also will have several outstanding players at his disposal, led by linebacker Sam Cowart.

Cowart, who is one of four Bills in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, said Thursday he doesn't know much about Williams, but is well aware of the talent on the Titans' defense.

"They were full of athletes, guys who make big plays," Cowart said. "Hopefully, he can bring that mentality over to Buffalo. We weren't a bad defense, but we can get better in some areas, and I'm sure he's the guy for that."

Pro Bowl wide receiver Eric Moulds is just as impressed with Williams' work after facing Tennessee in the playoffs a year ago and in the 2000 season opener.

"He's a great coordinator," Moulds said. "He's a guy you really have to pick your spots against. You can't go out and just sling the ball around. You have to really use ball control against his defense because he's not going to give up big plays."

Perhaps speaking for all of his teammates, Cowart said everyone is just happy the Bills finally have a head coach.

"Sitting around watching and wondering who it's going to be was tough," he said. "I'm glad it's over with and done and now we can decide about what we want to do in the future."

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