Jimmy and Dee Haslam made it official, naming Gregg Williams as the Cleveland Browns interim head coach after the team fired Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Monday. Former running back and assistant head coach Freddie Kitchens takes the reigns of the offense with both offensive-minded coaches on their way out the door.
The owners released a statement along with the news of Haley’s firing and Kitchens’ promotion:
“We greatly appreciate Hue’s commitment to the Cleveland Browns organization over the last two and a half years. We understand how critical this time period is in the development of our football team, individually and collectively, and believed it was in the organization’s best interest to make the move at this time, in order to maximize our opportunities the rest of this season. We certainly only wish Hue, Michelle, and his family the best moving forward.”
Williams last served as an NFL head coach from 2001-03 in Buffalo, finishing with a 17-31 record. Since then he has had his fair share of controversy, with not only his football philosophy but his attitude and recklessness.
After Bountygate, Williams was suspended then out of the league for three seasons. It wasn’t certain he would ever find work in the NFL again until he turned up with the Rams in 2014. Time may wash away some of the bad feelings about him, but they aren’t completely gone. And they shouldn't be, which makes this decision a little bit confusing.
That said, Williams is not likely taking over the 2018 Browns with hopes of retaining the job into the future. The Haslams let go of Hue Jackson now so they can charge John Dorsey with finding their future franchise leader. It makes some sense to have someone with Williams’ experience and command of the locker room in the position to keep some kind of order and continuity.
Williams demands accountability and respect, even he does it through an “in your face” and no-nonsense approach. The players probably won’t love it after having a “player’s coach” like Jackson in control, but they have shown they are responsive to Williams’ approach. The Browns defense, for all its flaws, leads the NFL in takeaways and has looked like a motivated group that’s having fun on the field.
Let the coaching search begin.