The St. Louis Rams will be without defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for at least the 2012 season.
More significantly, the man Rams coach Jeff Fisher thought he was hiring -- brash, unapologetic and full of swagger -- will never coach again. The NFL has banished that version of Williams forever.
The indefinite suspension levied against Williams attacks the brashness that differentiated him from other coordinators. It was part of his essence as a coach and his appeal to the Rams. Contrition has never been part of Williams' makeup, but now he's been forced into two humiliating formal apologies, the latest coming Wednesday:
"I'd like to again apologize wholeheartedly to the NFL, Coach Fisher, the entire Rams organization and all football fans for my actions. Furthermore, I apologize to the players of the NFL for my involvement as it is not a true reflection of my values as a father or coach, nor is it reflective of the great respect I have for this game and its core principle of sportsmanship. I accept full responsibility for my actions.
"I highly value the 23 years that I’ve spent in the NFL. I will continue to cooperate fully with the league and its investigation and I will focus my energies on serving as an advocate for both player safety and sportsmanship. I will do everything possible to re-earn the respect of my colleagues, the NFL and its players in hopes of returning to coaching in the future."
Fisher was noncommittal regarding Williams' potential return. Fisher said the Rams would "cross that bridge" at the appropriate time. Fisher also said the Rams never would have hired Williams had they known of the looming bounty investigation and punishment.
The Rams are keeping open their options. The team cannot offer any promises to Williams without knowing when or if the NFL will allow him to coach again. The Rams will also want to see how their defense fares without Williams. They have no plans to hire a replacement in the short term; their defensive staff appears strong without Williams.
One issue is whether Williams can ever again credibly orchestrate the type of attacking defenses he has promoted for years. This will be a tough transition for Williams, one I'm not sure the Rams will want to make with him.