Less than a month after Jeff Fisher told the media that he did not foresee any changes to his coaching staff, the St. Louis Rams have parted ways with defensive coordinator Tim Walton. Jim Thomas had the news on Wednesday afternoon.
Rams decide not to retain defensive coordinator tim walton.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) January 29, 2014
"I would like to thank Tim for his hard work and contributions to our defense," Jeff Fisher said in a team statement. "I wish him well in the future."
It was another disappointing season for the Rams. No unit disappointed more than the defense which finished the 2012 season on the verge of joining the league's best. The problems were clear from the start of the season. It took nearly half the year for the pass rush to find the same level of productivity that it had the year before, and this with a DPOY-worthy effort from Robert Quinn.
It was the secondary that really set off alarm bells though. Soft zones and the inability to adjust undermined the Rams at every turn. By the time the coaches figured it out -- roughly coinciding with Fisher reportedly stepped in to take a more active role leading the defense -- the group had been hit hard by the injury bug.
The most disappointing development during Walton's one year, his first ever year as a defensive coordinator, was the lack of growth from the team's young players, notably Janoris Jenkins.
Walton came to St. Louis from the Lions, where he was a defensive backs coach and the team's third-down specialist. The Rams defense allowed a 38.81 percent conversion rate on third downs, roughly one percent worse than the year before. They allowed an average of 22.8 points per game (13th best in the NFL), which was up exactly one point over last year's average.
Parting ways from Walton in light of the team's results this season doesn't come as a huge surprise. However, he inherited a very well experienced group of assistant coaches, notably long-time Fisher associates like assistant head coach Dave McGinnis and secondary coach Chuck Cecil. As I said before, you wonder a little about the role those guys played and the chemistry they had with Walton.
As for replacements, the market's been scooping up other potential candidates. Former Fisher DC Jim Schwartz landed in Buffalo after the Lions canned him. One name still out there is Gregg Williams, who was originally going to be the Rams defensive coordinator last year, before his indefinite suspension by the NFL for his role in the Saints bounty program. Fisher distanced himself from Williams after the season, even firing his son Blake from the Rams staff (touching the league's third rail of cronyism).
They had no defensive coordinator in 2012, so that's another potential option.
Another question to ask here is whether or not more changes are coming?
One more takeaway: Don't read too much into public endorsements, especially now that it's draft season.