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The Cleveland Browns fired defensive coordinator Ray Horton after just one season with the team, again. I know that sounds weird but it’s true. The Browns have hired Horton twice now to head the defensive side of the ball and twice they have dismissed him after just one year. In this instance, it came only a week after owner Jimmy Haslam preached continuity over and over at a press conference. The national media has proceeded in ripping the Browns for their hypocrisies, because as we know, a new coordinator brings his own guys in and with Pep Hamilton electing to take a lateral position at Michigan with Jim Harbaugh, the team has to now replace seven coaching positions.
Let’s just set this whole thing straight first. Jimmy Haslam misspoke. He should have just said, “We understand the importance of continuity but it is also important to continue to improve when the opportunity presents itself.” As the owner of a 1-15 football team, you shouldn’t be nailing anything to the wall, especially in the press. I have no doubt that Ray Horton is a very nice man, but the Browns lack an identity on defense. If they were known for anything in 2016 it was for being soft and that just can’t be in the AFC North. The easiest way to establish an identity in football is to go tough guy and that’s what the Browns did.
The Browns will be switching defensive schemes, back to the 4-3. The 3-4 just muddled everything up. You have guys like Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib trying to play outside linebacker. It would be one thing if they always played up on the front and did what they do best, apply pressure. Ray Horton had theses guys dropping into coverage, sitting down in zones and more nonsense that just isn’t apart of their game or why they were drafted. Put the players in the best situation to succeed. The 4-3 is a better fit and will allow a number of young players on the Browns defense to get back to doing what they do best.
Matt Bowen is an NFL Analyst for ESPN now but back in 2013 was writing for Bleacher Report. Bowen played in league from 2001-2004 and spent time as a safety on a Gregg Williams defense. The article he wrote about his time as a player for Williams is incredibly enlightening and encouraging if you are a Browns fan.
Williams is known for heading up nasty, physical defenses and has had a ton of success in the league. Bowen starts by laying out Williams only three rules for his defense.
- Be on time
- Touch all lines
- Buckle your chinstrap
He goes on to talk about how accountability is the cornerstone of Williams coaching style. He talks about how five minutes into his first meeting with Williams he knew he would love playing for him. He commanded the room and talked like a head coach with “supreme confidence.” He used this statement to describe Williams emphasis on accountability,
“Hey, Williams can coach. He can motivate. And he absolutely demands accountability from his players. Forget contracts, where you were drafted, etc.
Miss tackles? Bust coverages? Give up plays over the top? Well, then you are probably going to sit. And I’ve been there after giving up the deep one.”
Bowen raves about Williams motivation skills. He talks about how every one of his players buys into the attitude that he brings. He talks about how it comes from the top down and his defenses and special because they all are on board and all about the same things.
Bowen mentions Williams focus on production. He posted a huge chart for everyone to see and read and recorded every statistic for every one of his players.
“Produce and you play. It was that simple under Williams. He didn’t cater to favorites, and he had no problem sitting you down if the production wasn’t there. Have an issue with the number of minutes you are seeing on Sundays? Then go look at the chart. That will tell you the story.”
Bowen says that every player had to have a notebook at all times and that he never experienced the detailed preparation, schemes and film-work that Williams brought to the table and demanded that his players know. Williams’ favorite saying was “Everyday is an interview.” Everything was filmed including conditioning drills to catch who cheated on an up-down. Players were constantly evaluated and they were expected to be ready to practice at Williams detailed, high pace style and to do so within their scheme.
“It didn’t matter if it was a Wednesday afternoon practice or Saturday morning walk-through. When the film was rolling, you were being graded on stance, alignment and responsibility.
“No free passes with Williams.”
Bowen recounts how much fun it was to play in Williams scheme because it was all about pressure. The complexity of his different schemes astounding, Bowen says at the center of everything was pressure.
“But at the core of any Williams game plan is pressure. It can be exotic with the disguise, or he will have his guys line up in a blitz look and dare the offense to stop it. If he could, Williams would blitz fans out of the stands.”
Browns Need Some NASTY
I don’t know where other Browns fans are at with this hire, but from this players account of what it was like to play under Williams, I am exhilarated. How refreshing to hear about the lack of favoritism and the attention to detail. Williams’ players love playing for him and after Bowen’s account, there is no doubt why. He sounds like just what the Browns need to be honest. Some accountability and some NASTY! He sounds like the right man for the job and I am looking forward to watching Browns defense intimidate and pressure quarterbacks. I am looking forward to watching a defense with an identity.
Follow the author: @Brad_Ward12
Photo via: ESPN