The Cleveland Browns will be playing against last year’s interim head coach Gregg Williams on Monday, but there appears to be no love lost between the two sides.
Following the Cleveland Browns decision to fire Hue Jackson and Todd Haley midway through the 2018 season, the Browns somewhat surprisingly named Gregg Williams interim head coach. Despite being the most qualified to take over, he had quite a checkered past in the NFL.
Williams proved to be the right man to become the interim head coach for the rest of the 2018 season, leading the Browns to a 5-3 record over the final eight games, putting them in playoff contention.
Due to his leadership and helping the Browns turnaround their season, Williams seemed like he would be a finalist for the permanent head coaching gig at the end of the season. Williams interviewed for the job, but Freddie Kitchens ultimately won the job.
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The decision to not name Williams the permanent head coach was considered a surprise because of how well the Browns played under his leadership. The locker room seemed to buy into Williams as head coach and performed at a level not seen earlier in the season.
There have been theories as to why Williams did not win the job, including from former offensive line coach Bob Wylie. Wylie said Browns general manager John Dorsey did not want to deal with a power struggle with Williams, so Dorsey decided to go with Kitchens.
As the Browns prepare to face the New York Jets and Gregg Williams on Monday Night Football, it is starting to become clearer as to why Williams did not win the head coaching job. And it is mostly noticeable because of the comments of a few current Browns.
Damarious Randall emerged as a leader in Williams’ defense last season, but he has been critical of the role Williams put him in. Randall said he played too far away from the line of scrimmage, limiting the impact he could have made.
Williams’ defense became well-known for playing the free safety far from the line of scrimmage, sometimes 20+ yards away from the ball, in order to limit an offense’s vertical attack. However, Williams’ defense would be picked apart in the middle of the field because of the lack of safety help.
Randall was asked about getting to play against Williams on Monday night, but Randall did not seem to want to talk about Williams, responding with “next question.” Despite several Browns either complimenting Williams or giving generic answers about facing a former coach, Randall did not want to talk about Williams whatsoever.
Even though Randall did not want to talk about Williams, Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. took the chance to speak his mind about Williams. Beckham said he was told by Browns players who were with the team in 2017 that Williams told the defense to take Beckham “out” of the Browns-Giants preseason game that season.
Beckham suffered an ankle injury after taking a low hit from Browns cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun early in the 2017 preseason game. This moment reinforced Beckham’s opinion that Williams taught and preached dirty hits.
It is not surprising that Beckham has those feelings for Williams after what happened to him in 2017. But what is surprising is that Beckham was allegedly told by Browns players that Williams was telling the team to take out the wide receiver.
Combining that with Randall’s non-answer about Williams, Williams may not have had the locker room completely bought into his personality and philosophy. Players would not tell a current teammate that their former coach was trying to injure another player unless they have something against that coach.
If the Browns front office asked key players from the locker room their opinion of Williams during the coaching search, they may not have heard glowing remarks from the players. And if that is the case, it could have hurt Williams’ chances of winning the job.
Williams may have had a strong case to be named the Browns head coach after the 2018 season. But if he did not have the locker room completely bought in, it would make sense to be weary of naming him the permanent head coach.