The Cleveland Browns hired their next head coach. It’s Freddie Kitchens. The search is over, and it’s time to move forward.
Despite this, I’m still hearing an alarmingly high amount of Cleveland fans continue to bring up one specific take – why didn’t they just keep Gregg Williams?
Before Cleveland kicked its coaching search off, many fans felt this was the best solution. After all, Williams won five times in eight games after being promoted to interim head coach in the wake of Hue Jackson‘s firing. Knowing that, why would the team still decide to part ways with him? As many people told me, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
To those who still feel this way, even after Kitchens got the job, I’d recommend taking a step back for some much-needed hindsight. Once you do so, you’ll realize you’re likely guilty of overvaluing what Williams brought to the table in his short time as Cleveland’s head coach.
This isn’t to undercut anything he did while running the Browns. To take the team from 2-5-1 to 7-8-1 was surely no easy feat. Cleveland clearly looked better under his watch than it did with Jackson as coach, and there’s no sense in denying this.
It’s easy to look at that alone and feel the need to chastise the Browns for getting rid of Williams. However, before you do this, ask yourself which is more logical – was Cleveland’s in-season turnaround a result of Williams being that good of a coach, or Jackson being that bad?
You’ll have a tough time convincing me it’s not the latter. We’re talking about a coach who won three games in almost three years. Who found a way to regress from a one-win season, which shouldn’t even be possible. Someone who failed miserably on a weekly basis, never had his team looking prepared, and would also be willing to blame everyone but himself for this.
With that in mind, how could Williams not have been an improvement?
There was talent on the Browns’ roster, with high-impact players at several key positions. Williams isn’t an NFL mastermind because he was able to get the most out of these guys. Jackson was just that terrible of a coach that he was unable to do so himself.
In addition to this, it’s important to note Cleveland’s defense – Williams’ area of expertise – still struggled last season. While it continually took a bend-don’t-break approach, the unit still gave up more yardage than all but two teams last year.
Yet, because he won five of his eight games as interim coach, many fans still feel as though passing up on Williams was a mistake by the Browns.
What you ignore when making this claim is the fact Jackson set expectations so appallingly low, Williams’ time with the team was naturally seen as a massive upgrade. Simply put, it would’ve taken little to no effort to do any worse than his predecessor. Anyone who replaced Jackson could’ve won more than he did.
That’s the context you really need to view this under. Yes, Williams had this team looking better. However, this was in part because it would’ve been impossible for it to look worse.
Again, I don’t want this to come off as me trashing Williams. He made the second half of the 2018 season far more entertaining than the first.
Still, the Browns couldn’t just hand him the job because he won more games than Jackson did. They couldn’t make him their guy because he was able to get talented players to actually look talented. The bar couldn’t have been “well, he was better than the last guy.,” especially when said last guy was a failure of historic proportion.
I understand what Williams did in his eight weeks as Cleveland’s interim head coach. I just don’t think it was a clear sign he should’ve been given the full-time gig. It’s not hard to look impressive when you’re asked to be a better coach than Hue Jackson.