BEREA, Ohio--For a team that is stressing continuity, the Browns look as though they are blowing things up--at least on one side of the ball.
Hue Jackson said that was a big part of his weighing whether to keep the course with the defense under Ray Horton or start new with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was officially announced as the Browns new coordinator on Sunday. Williams is expected to bring at least three to four assistants with him.
“Wow, it was huge," Jackson said on a conference call Sunday after the hiring. "That was a huge piece of it because I know what it looks like and I know what it feels like for everybody here – ‘Here are the Browns again changing out,’ – but it is not about that. I am going to say it again, it is about trying to be the best we can be everywhere.
"I get what it feels like to everybody and I respect that, but at the same time, I think everybody would be disappointed in me if I did not as the leader make tough decisions that I think are going to get us to where we want to go to," Jackson said. "It goes both ways so you are kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I do not worry about that. I am worried about getting this organization, this football team and this coaching staff as good as I can get it, and I think that is my charge.”
Jackson said he's been evaluating every aspect of the team since the season ended and said he came to the conclusion that he needed to make some changes.
“What I said when the season was over was I was going to go back and look at everything," Jackson said. "All of these decisions, I think you guys all know are very difficult, but it is my job to make sure that I am creating the right environment to create a championship team and a winning organization. I don’t want anybody to take that this is just about Ray.
"This is really about my vision," he said. "It is about what I am trying to create here in Cleveland and how I see it and what I think it is going to take for us to get there. This isn’t just Ray. I know it looks like that. I know it looks like he gets caught up in it and however you guys want to say that, but it is not about that. It is bigger to me than that. I needed to look at our staff and I needed to look at our team and figure out what is going to be the best way for us moving forward so that I can bring winning to the Cleveland Browns. That’s what I was interested in doing. These are tough decisions. These are hard decisions, but they are decisions to me from a leadership position that have to be made if you are going to create the winning environment that I hope to create here.”
Jackson conceded that it looks as though Horton is the scapegoat for the 1-15 season and the defense's ranking 31st in the NFL.
“Right, well, I do," he said. "That is why I am telling you guys that I am disappointed that everybody is making it that way. If anybody, the finger is pointed back at me. It is not pointed at Ray. At the end of the day, the whole buck stops with me. I get it. I know what it looks like and what the perception is, but that is not what it is. This is my decision.
"This is through my time of thinking through what I think is going to be best for us moving forward for our football team and where I want to take it and what I thought we needed to do to get there," he said. "There are decisions that are going to be made that are very difficult. They are hard, but you have to make them if that is where you are trying to go. I feel very comfortable in what we have done and where we are trying to head. I thank the organization for allowing me to do the things that I think need to be done to get to where we need to be.”
Jackson explained why he thinks Williams will help the Browns become the defense Jackson envisions them to be.
“He is one of the better coordinators in the National Football League, and I think that is proven," Jackson said. "The guy has a ton of skins on the wall doing this in a lot of different places with a lot of different players and a lot of different systems. I need growth over there as fast as I can get it. I truly believe in his track record and what he has done.
"Like I said, this wasn’t an easy decision," he said. "I agonized over this probably more than anybody because it does, it does hurt some people, but when I look at it at the end of the day, I have to do what I think is right to get us to where we need to be. I think Gregg is that guy.”
Williams background is more of a base 4-3 defense, but Jackson wouldn't say if the Browns would be switching from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 under Williams.
“It is safe to say we are going to be what we think is best to help our football team be as good as we need to be on defense.," he said. "Gregg comes from a lot of different backgrounds. He comes from a 4-3 system. He comes from a 3-4 system. He has done a little bit of it all. We need to look at our personnel and see where we are and find out what is best to get our men to play the best we can get them to play.”
It appears that many of the Browns young defensive players might fare better in a 4-3 and Jackson if that factored into the decision to hire Williams.
“Everything factored in," he said. "I looked at it all. I looked at the players, the coaches, schematically and everything. It was not a fly by night decision. This was really thought out, and it was tough. A lot of coaches are having some downtime right now. I did not have any downtime. I spent my time trying to figure out what is the best way to get this organization and to create the championship culture and get to winning as fast as we could. This is the decision I have come up with. I feel very comfortable in that, and I think it is the right thing for our organization and our football team.”
Jackson said he likes the mindset that Williams will bring to the Browns.
“They are very aggressive and attacking," he said. "They make you go the long, hard route to score touchdowns. That is what playing football in the National Football League is all about. His defenses have demonstrated that they tackle well and that the ball is not thrown over their head big time. In order to be a really good defense, the characteristics I just mentioned, you have to have.”
Williams said he's excited to join the Browns and help to be a part of the turnaround.
“It’s very exciting for me to become part of the Cleveland Browns organization and join Hue Jackson's coaching staff,” Williams said. “I have so much respect for Hue having competed against him in this league for so many years. We're looking forward to getting to work.”
Will Pep Stay?: Reports surfaced on Saturday that associate head coach/offense Pep Hamilton is contemplating joining Jim Harbaugh's staff at Michigan. Jackson was asked if he expected Hamilton to stay with the Browns.
“Yeah, I sure hope so," he said. "I have known about the Jim Harbaugh situation from a week and a half ago. I feel very comfortable that Pep is staying. Anything can happen. We want him to stay. We hope he stays. Like I said, a young man is entitled to do what they feel is best for them, but I would think we have created a good environment and I hope things are still good. As far as I know, things are.”
Hue will still call plays: Jackson said he planned to continue to call the offensive plays.
“Yes, I will," he said. "I don’t know why I would not. Until I get this organization where I need it to be, I need to continue to do what I think I have done in the past to play winning football.
"Obviously, we didn’t do it as well this past year," he said. "Trust me, I have looked at myself, too. Hue Jackson has to get better as well as anybody has to get better. I don’t run from that. I am not taking it off my head. I get how all of this works. I have been through these things before, and I know what we have to get done. I can see it. I just have to go make it happen.”