The Buffalo Bills' new defensive coordinator, Jerry Gray, isn't ready to say he wants to re-create the defensive scheme he helped coach in Tennessee the past two years.
But he definitely wants to re-create the results.
"By the count of three once that ball is snapped, if the quarterback isn't throwing the ball, ducking or running he's got too much time," Gray said. "That's what you want to see here. You want to see that guy fearing for his life. When you can get the quarterback in that mode, you're going to win most ballgames."
The 38-year-old Gray, a former star defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams, was introduced at a news conference Tuesday. He said the aggressive style he helped employ as Tennessee's defensive backs coach the past two years is the goal in Buffalo. Tennessee created a combined 179 sacks and turnovers the past two years -- the second highest total in the NFL behind New Orleans.
"I want you to see cornerbacks flying around hitting running backs," Gray said, explaining his defensive philosophy. "I want you to see the safety is going to knock receivers out coming across the middle of the field. I want you to see the linebackers hitting receivers.
"And the biggest thing you want to get is turnovers," Gray said. "That's the thing Baltimore did this year. They took over the role we had two years ago. We finished plus 25 (in the turnover margin), and we went to the Super Bowl. We had a lot of takeaways, and we had takeaways for touchdowns."
Just like his new boss, Bills head coach Gregg Williams, Gray sidestepped the question of whether the team would stick with the 3-4 defense or switch to a 4-3.
But since Tennessee used the 4-3, there is a good chance Buffalo will be doing the same.
"You have to wait," Gray said. "We have to wait until free agency and all this stuff dies down. . . . We know they played a 3-4 here. With our system, we play the 4-3. But I think the adaptability is there. We played the 3-4 in Tennessee. We didn't make it our mainstay. But when you've got great personnel like they have here . . . you're going to see the best of the Buffalo Bills, whatever happens.
Later, Gray added:
"I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of good players on this team, and with the system that we're going to have, I think we're going to be able to stay right up there."
Gray said he loves the intensity and effort he has seen from video he has watched of the Bills' defense.
"The first thing you see when you turn the film on is you see guys running," Gray said. "I think that's the biggest attribute of any great defense. Most guys don't run. It's amazing when you turn the films on. But on this defense, there's 11 guys running on just about every play. . . . This defense is not going to slow down. I think that was a big thing in Tennessee. Every time you stopped the film and freeze-framed the point of attack, there were almost 10 or 11 guys there. For the most part, if one guy missed the next guy was going to get him."
All out effort and plenty of talent were the trademarks of Gray's game. He made four Pro Bowls for the Rams in a nine-season career that ended in 1993. He has been coaching only six years -- two at Southern Methodist and four with the Titans, but Williams predicted he would be an NFL head coach someday.
"I know it's a great privilege to be amongst the guys who are defensive coordinators in this league, and I'm going to take this job and run with it," Gray said. "Four years ago, I set a goal. I talked to a couple head coaches who interviewed me . . . and I told them I only wanted to be quality control coach for two years, the defensive backs coach for two years, and I want to be a defensive coordinator for two years. The next step is a head coach. You have to set goals for yourself in order to be the best, and you have to go out and work to get it."
Asked what benefit being a former All-Pro player gives him in coaching, Gray said, "No. 1, I think it gives you credibility. Those guys know that not only have you gone out and sweated and done the same things they've done, now you're sitting here and trying to teach them how to cheat, basically."
Gray said knowing how to disguise coverages is a prime example of "cheating."
"You find young guys coming out and they want to press (play up on the line of scrimmage) when it's man to man or they want to be off when it's zone. That quarterback's over there making $5 million a year, and he's studying film. It's a no-brainer. He knows what you're doing. He knows what defense you're in."
In the coming weeks, fans are likely to get a better idea of what defense the Bills will be in.
The Bills confirmed two more staff hirings. Pat Thomas will be defensive backs coach. Thomas, who spent the past two years running his own business, has coached DBs for seven years in the NFL. He held that job for Indianapolis from 1994 to '97 and in Houston (where he worked with Williams) from '90 to '92. He's also a former NFL defensive back, making the Pro Bowl twice for the L.A. Rams and intercepting 26 passes from '76 to '82. Another former player, Steve Jackson, will be assistant defensive backs coach. Jackson played under Williams for the Titans from '91 to '99.
Running backs coach is the lone opening on Williams' staff. He said it would be filled by the weekend.
Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. will host a live online chat at 2:30 Thursday on Buffalobills.com.