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Gregg Williams makes an unlikely return to a head-coaching role

Gregg Williams will make his debut as interim coach of the Cleveland Browns against the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs.

After the Browns fired both coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, it wasn’t clear who the interim coach would be, because it was believed to be clear that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams never, ever would be a head coach again. Ever.

But the Browns gave Williams the job for the second half of the season, despite the fact that he created, organized, and implemented while with the Saints a bounty program that got him suspended for the entire 2012 season.

It was more than the bounty scandal, as utilized during the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl run (and possibly against Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV). It was a history of using bounties at prior coaching stops -- a history that the league had no desire to explore for fear of exposing just how widespread the problem was. Williams allegedly had a bounty system in Washington, and also in Buffalo, where he was 17-31 in his only stint as a head coach from 2001 through 2003.

(The Washington bounty program resulted in a lawsuit from former Lions linebacker Barrett Green. The lawsuit was settled in 2015.)

Perhaps more importantly, it was the over-the-top effort before what would be his final game with the Saints, a playoff game for the ages against the 49ers, to urge members of the New Orleans defense to inflict injury on San Francisco players,

Then there was the written testimony from Williams in the bounty case specifically accusing former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma of offering $10,000 to anyone who knocked former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC title game. It’s somewhat amazing that any players would trust or respect Williams after snitching, as plenty of players could easily perceive it, on one of his players.

Despite these various issues that go to the heart of the NFL’s newfound concern (as of 2012) on player health and safety, and notwithstanding the existence of plenty of competent coaches, the Browns hired Williams in 2017 to run their defense and the Browns have now given him the interim head-coaching job.

Here’s where I’d say that it would be a major surprise if he receives serious consideration for the permanent job in 2019. But it’s already a major surprise that he’ll have the job for eight games, 15 years after last serving as a head coach in the NFL and six years after he became seemingly disqualified from ever being an NFL head coach again.