A million thoughts are racing through Gregg Williams' mind as his run as interim head coach nears the finish line and John Dorsey's blunt conversations turn toward the million-dollar decision.

CLEVELAND  You think Santa's sleigh gets crowded? Have you seen the Baker Mayfield bandwagon?

Maybe that's an unfair question. Browns fans are no front-runners. They've simply had to wait forever for some sign of hope. Mayfield is the most conspicuous visible representative of its arrival.

The rookie No. 1 overall pick knows how to play and what to say.

Nothing he might have come up with could have been more endearing than his bottom line after Sunday's conquest of Cincinnati put the Browns at 7-7-1:

"I relate to Cleveland. It's going to be a good relationship for a long time."

Mayfield is going to be around. Browns fans propose a toast to Jerry Maguire on that point. "You had me at Sam Darnold."

The Baker Bus got busy when he relieved Tyrod Taylor with the Browns trailing the Jets 14-0, then made the stadium glad the draft pick wasn't Darnold.

A key Mayfield question: Will he happily stay in Cleveland or long to take his talents to a glitzier city if he becomes a major star? Would he sulk if he gets franchise tagged until the walleye come home?

The Bengals went through something like that with their No. 1 pick, Carson Palmer. He didn't love Ohio. The feeling became mutual.

On that front, it is good for Mayfield to have said what he said.

Solving the quarterback issue, if that's what is happening (outlook good), doesn't solve everything.

Heading into a season finale at Baltimore, the Browns MUST make the first effective head coaching hire since they (in their former incarnation) moved to Maryland.

On that front, Gregg Williams' thoughts must be racing a million miles an hour.

Williams would get a big laugh from anyone telling him life begins at 60. He would laugh because for him it seems true.

He hit the big 6-0 in July. He became a star on Hard Knocks in August. He became a head coach for the first time in 15 years at the end of October.

He will make more money than he has ever made if he gets a contract to be the full-time head coach in January.

The guess is that he cares much about doing something special as a head coach. He has made good money. His long ago run in Buffalo was not boffo.

But imagine all that has been and is on his plate. On a Browns team that went 2-21-1 with him as defensive coordinator ... chance to be head coach during a 6-2 run (with a win at Baltimore) ... spending his days with his son, Blake, as a right-hand man in a pivotal point of Blake's career ... trying to convince a few million people (including a few keys ones, notably GM John Dorsey) he should be entrusted to keep nursing a sleeping giant out of a multi-decade coma.

He is coping. He is grinding. One can almost see his mind churning to deny beads of sweat appearing around his dark-rimmed glasses.

In Williams' capacity as interim head coach, he no longer swears like a sailor in public. He seems to try very hard to put meat on the saying of the right things, over and over, every day.

Williams has not worn his campaign to stay on as head coach on his sleeve. Terry Robiskie, the Browns' only other interim head coach of the expansion era (2004), was so direct in his campaign that he might as well have flown banners over Berea. They were 1-4 under him and Robiskie moved on.

This is just an educated guess, but the guess is Williams wants very much to be Cleveland's head coach.

Short of giving Dorsey two shots of truth serum in his egg nog, he seems completely indisposed to offering any clue on where he wants to go with the head coaching call.

Here is another educated guess: Dorsey has been swayed by the team's performance under Williams and has thought long and hard about the negative side of rocking the boat with the team finally — FINALLY! — winning.

Then one gets into plausible speculation.

Bruce Arians, who is interested in the job, comes off as Dorsey's kind of guy.

Suppose Williams would be disappointed by not getting the job but willing to stay on under Arians. That would allow for continuity on defense.

On offense, Freddie Kitchens most likely would be Arians' coordinator, with a hope of replacing his 66-year-old friend at some point. There would be continuity on offense.

Stability on special teams would be maintained by keeping Amos Jones. Both Kitchens and Jones worked for years with Arians in Arizona.

Probably, Williams has a very good sense of his chances. He says he and Dorsey have conversations that are both regular and "blunt." Blunt is not the same thing as Dorsey telling Williams, "Shucks, Gregg, we really oughtn't to be talking about next year yet. What would the neighbors think?

Williams has not been blunt in public. His words have cast only shadows. He has tended to ramble.

After Sunday's win over Cincinnati, someone noted the Browns are guaranteed not to be finish in the AFC's basement for the first time in years.

"That is very important to any prideful man that plays the profession," he said. "That is important. I did not know that so I appreciate you telling me that, too. A prideful competitor in professional sports, that is important. I will use that in the notes this week. That is good. It is important.”

(Not blunt.)

Williams touched on the bandwagon when asked about fans chanting Mayfield's name in second half.

“I think it was outstanding, and it brought back memories to me," he said. "I am serious. I am thinking before the ballgame this is how it was when I used to come up here in the late '80s and early '90s.

"That is what I thought, and I think it is really cool and it was evident. We talked about it really Thursday, Friday and then last night’s team meetings. We talked quite a bit about that part of it. Let’s give the fans something to rock and roll and cheer about.

"Our players were into it with them, and I think it was great to see the fans have a great Christmas. We talked about help giving them a gift with something like this, show our appreciation and play the way the Cleveland Browns are supposed to be playing.”

(Schmoozy, not blunt.)

Ironically, the old man (Williams) isn't in the same league as the young one (Mayfield) in terms of holding court in a press conference.

Yet, what does that matter in the head coaching campaign? Here are three things that matter to Dorsey, maybe:

1, The Browns flubbed a few things against the Bengals, but in some senses were fabulously dominant. They led 493-209 in yards.

2, They head for Baltimore on a 5-1 hot streak.

3, Sunday's crowd rocked. Browns business is looking up.

Williams' memory is a little fuzzy. The stadium atmosphere was indeed second to none in the late 1980s. It nosedived with a 3-13 year in 1990 and never recovered full electricity during the Belichick era.

Much of that is neither here nor there.

So much rides on those blunt conversations and what soon will become Dosey's brutally honest conclusion.

 

Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or

steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP