Gregg Williams likes his new gig as interim coach, believes he’s good at it and sounds as if he hopes to keep it on a full-time basis.
“There we go. I was waiting for that to come up,” Williams said Monday on a conference call when asked if he wants to be the head coach. “I enjoy doing what I am doing. I enjoy the head coaching part of it.
“I enjoy all these parts of it, but understand the big part of what we are doing is we get the players to focus, get me to focus and get all you guys to focus on one day at a time and we have to keep on moving on in the right direction.”
When owner Jimmy Haslam fired Hue Jackson on Oct. 29, he said Williams would be considered for the job after the season if he was interested. Williams is interested but was adamant he doesn’t want discussion about his future to distract from the mission of the team over the final six games.
Williams seems like a long shot to keep the job regardless of the results of the rest of the season. A lot of factors are working against him.
General manager John Dorsey’s list of potential candidates should be long and interesting, and will likely include Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, the NFL’s hot coordinators and Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Ravens coach John Harbaugh if they are let go after the season. And Dorsey may want to make a clean break from the coaches brought in by Jackson.
Williams, 60, failed in his only attempt as a head coach, going 17-31 in Buffalo from 2001-03 and missing the playoffs each season. And he’s perhaps best known for his leading role in the Saints’ bounty scandal that earned him a suspension for the 2012 season.
But the Browns (3-6-1) are 1-1 with him in charge and have played much better. The offense is more efficient and creative and the team more disciplined and cohesive. Williams received a lot of praise after the 28-16 upset of the Falcons on Sunday and was asked if his goal is to go on a winning streak after the bye this week and secure the job.
“Before we go anywhere with that, my goal is to win every day,” he said. “In every meeting and everything, it is about winning. I am happy and I feel really good about helping these young men here win.
“We have to take every single situation day by day and game by game and continue doing our job. We can’t look past anything else because when people do that at this level is when distractions come up. All of a sudden, you are forgetting or sacrificing doing the right thing for that day. We have to put a lot of good days together. We have a lot of season left.”
The longtime defensive coordinator hadn’t called the shots for a whole team in more than 14 years and was asked if he’s thought to himself he’s still got what it takes.
“I never thought it left,” he said.
Williams was pressed about whether he wants to keep the job.
“You know what? I like being employed,” he said.
He didn’t need the last two weeks to bolster his confidence.
“I have always felt like I was a head coach in charge of whatever I was in,” he said, referring to his days as a position coach. “Now sometimes it has to go up to do more area and more people involved, but there is a philosophy in an organizational way of going about being accountable, disciplined and focused.
“When you do what you do and what you are involved in so well, maybe somebody else might ask you to do more. My dad told me that many, many, many years ago about how you get promoted in life.”
Normally bombastic in his news conferences, Williams has toned it down considerably since taking over for Jackson. He still name drops and extols his own virtues but he does so with a much calmer demeanor. He acknowledged this, saying he wants to set a tone for the team, rather than just fire up the defense, which he still leads as coordinator.
In the expanded role, he’s spent more time with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, reinforcing the organization’s support and urging him to “cut it loose” and not worry about mistakes.
Mayfield responded with his best game Sunday, going 17-for-20 for 216 yards, a career-high three touchdowns, no interceptions, no sacks and a nearly perfect 151.2 rating.
“Guys believing in themselves, not hesitating and not flinching, just going out and doing your job and doing it as fast as you possibly can,” Mayfield said Sunday of the changes on offense since Jackson and coordinator Todd Haley were fired.
Williams has often referred to his organizational skills and said he’s used them to improve the situation inside team headquarters in the last two weeks.
“The belief is that we are always going to be organized, that time is valuable and the time that we get to coach and teach in practice is valuable. Do not waste that time,” he said.
He’s also stressed the need for offense, defense and special teams to complement each other on gamedays. That includes managing the clock against teams with potent offenses, and he praised Mayfield for handling his role in that against the Falcons.
“We have been very close for a little bit,” Mayfield said. “We just finally played well on all three phases. We played together.”
Williams wasn’t ready to gloat after one win.
“We can’t be satisfied with where we are at,” he said. “We have to be pleased with coming out with a win, but there are still things that we have to improve upon, and we will.”