The day the Cleveland Browns named Gregg Williams their interim head coach after firing Hue Jackson, their former defensive coordinator made one thing perfectly clear: The Browns were lucky to have him.
"Since I left Buffalo (in 2003), I had 11 letters to interview for head coaching jobs," Williams said. "Four of them, I didn't even have to interview. Just show up and sign the contract."
So yeah, the 60-year-old Williams is sure of himself. Maybe full of himself, too, considering he went 17-31 in his three-year reign as head coach of the Bufalo Bills, and didn't appear to have anyone actually beating down his door. He's outspoken, egotistical, overly confident and brash. He knows he can coach. He's pretty sure one third of the NFL wants him to be their head coach. And he absolutely wants to be a head coach again. Probably soon.
All that makes Williams the equivalent of a lit match dangerously close to a barrel of kerosene for a young head coach trying to re-ignite a struggling franchise. His presence on the Jets could turn out to be anywhere from combustible to explosive.
But if Adam Gase isn't afraid of him, then nobody else should be.
Gase, the 40-year-old new head coach of the Jets, clearly isn't afraid because it is official that he's tapping Williams to be his defensive coordinator - a position he's already called "the head coach of the defense". That implies that he'll give Williams near-free reign to do what he wants on that side of the football.
He's obviously hoping it'll be for the better, but he's clearly not afraid of the worse.
"I love guys that bring swagger, attitude, want to defense every blade of grass, want to make practices competitive," Gase said on WFAN on Tuesday afternoon. "That's how to me it starts. If your practices feel like a game, then you're going to perform better in the game."
There's no doubt Williams will bring all that to the Jets. He is a big personality who is not afraid to say what he's thinking - both publicly and privately, using language that can be both colorful and insulting at times. He wants his players on edge every day. He's incredibly demanding. He is willing to accept no excuses at all.
That can be tough on players who don't buy in. It can be tough on teams when they're losing. But when they win - as Williams did in Cleveland, going 5-3 as their interim coach and pushing the Browns to the edge of the playoff race - players know that it works.
"I think he's really reined everybody in and got everybody focused on one single goal," Browns center J.C. Tretter told Ohio.com. "I think his leadership has been very strong. He fires up the team. He's got that personality. The rules and what's expected of each person on the team when it comes to penalties and missed assignments and all these little things, they're spelled out for you. There's no confusion about what's going on."
That sure sounds like the kind of discipline the Jets need, particularly on defense. It's no secret that while Jets players seemed to love Todd Bowles, many of them didn't often follow his rules on or off the field. And accountability sure seemed to be lacking. That's about to change.
But for all the good Williams can do, there is a dark side - and it's not just the bad memories from his regrettable role in the infamous BountyGate scandal, where he was suspended for strongly encouraging his Saints players to injury their opponents. Even assuming he's not stupid enough to try that again, he still remains a high-octane presence underneath Gase, one who will draw plenty of media attention and - if things work out - credit and praise.
He'll also have plenty spotlight to say what's on his mind, which got him in trouble in Cleveland. He clashed with former Browns coach Hue Jackson at times, particularly last August when he called out a player publicly, leading Jackson to say "Gregg doesn't get to do just what he wants to do."
Now he's got the New York stage, the largest media platform he's ever had, and has to know that at his age he won't have many more chances to seize the spotlight and take one of those head coaching job offers he supposedly had. It could be a disaster if Gase has any insecurity about this at all.
Williams has thrived in 17 years as an NFL defensive coordinator, but his head coaches in that time were mostly strong, well-established men with big personalities. He coached under Joe Gibbs and Jeff Fisher and was never a threat to them. He spent one year under Jack Del Rio, but they were a bad match from the start. His personality didn't seem to be an issue until he joined Jackson, a first-year head coach of a franchise in transition with all its dirty laundry being aired on HBO's Hard Knocks.
Gase obviously thinks things will be different and better with the Jets. But given the circumstances, and the fact that Williams is the highest-profile coach on the staff, there sure is the potential for him to undermine his boss - or for it to appear that's what he's doing, even unintentionally.
But Gase will give him a wide berth.
"I try not to get demanding with the defensive coordinator," he said, "because I know I never liked it (as an offensive coordinator) when you felt like somebody was looking over your shoulder and constantly hounding you on calls."
That seems like a reasonable approach, done for the good of the franchise. Williams just might be the right man to turn around the Jets' defense, and it's good that Gase isn't afraid of whatever else comes along with that.