Why don't the Browns just stay with what they have? When John Dorsey weighs recent examples of interim head coaches who were retained, he finds little success. If he goes back to Marty Schottenheimer, he finds the Browns' last golden era.
Why don't they just keep what they have?
Plenty of Browns fans are asking.
Gregg Williams went 5-3 as interim head coach after the team went 3-36-1 under Hue Jackson and 33-79 under Mike Pettine, Rob Chudzinski, Pat Shurmur and Eric Mangini.
Why hand the keys to someone else just when Williams has them accelerating in the passing lane?
General Manager John Dorsey asks himself the same question. He appears to have developed serious respect for Williams' ability to lead.
In a sense, he sees Williams in nice shape 50 miles into the Daytona 500, but now he must project where Williams and other able drivers will wind up miles around the track.
The 58-year-old GM came off the season saying:
"Gregg kind of has these guys believing. He brought them together as one. He had them playing hard. Usually, in football, you play like you practice. For eight weeks, these guys practiced really hard.”
Dorsey says he is weighing everything, that he wants "a man of character who can lead young men ... a guy who can instill leadership ... a collaborative thinker ... a guy who consistent, day in and day out ... a continuous learner."
Dorsey is big on learning. He puts some stock in how other interim head coaches have fared when they were retained. We delved into this topic soon after Williams succeeded Hue Jackson, but that was before Williams at one point won five of six games. The topic is worth revisiting.
Since the Browns came back in 1999, a head coach has been fired with at least one-quarter of the season remaining 21 times, counting Williams. Seven interim replacements from the group have been brought back full-time.
Only one of the "interims" who stayed on achieved much success, and even that one (Jason Garrett) hasn't been a smash hit.
Garrett took over the Cowboys with eight games left in 2010, when Jerry Jones decided he had seen enough in three-plus seasons of Wade Phillips. Like Williams, Garrett went 5-3 in his partial season.
In eight full campaigns, Garrett has been under .500 just once. The 2018 Cowboys won the NFC East for the third time in the last five years, but Garrett's overall record (79-63, including 1-2 in the postseason) is not special.
Mike Mularkey took a team to a playoff win in his second full season, but his story hardly can be called a success.
Mularkey became interim head coach in Tennessee after seven games in 2015 when Ken Whisenhunt was fired with a 3-20 record. The Titans went just 2-7 under Mularkey, but he stayed on. A head coach twice previously, he was entrusted to get his third team somewhere with 2015 No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota.
Mularkey's 2016 Titans went 9-7 but missed the playoffs. They again went 9-7 in 2017, good for a wild-card spot. In the first round of the playoffs, last Jan. 6, they beat Kansas City, whose roster had been assembled by Dorsey. They fell 35-14 at New England in the second round, and Mularkey was fired amid a front-office power struggle.
Mularkey was a 2018 Browns training camp guest of Dorsey. They seem compatible, and Mularkey surely has crossed Dorsey's mind in weighing candidates.
After Garrett and Mularkey, the results compiled by men who parlayed interim head coaching duty into full-time work are slightly frightening.
A team-by-team review:
Bengals: After an 0-3 start in 2000, head coach Bruce Coslet was replaced by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. LeBeau went 4-9, then worked full seasons of 6-10 and 2-14 before getting replaced by Marvin Lewis.
49ers: Linebackers coach Mike Singletary supplanted head coach Mike Nolan with nine games left in 2008. Singletary lost his first two games but finished on a 5-2 hot streak, securing the job full-time. He was 18-22 when he got fired with one game left in 2010.
Raiders: In 2008, five games into Lane Kiffin's second year as head coach, offensive line coach Tom Cable took over, went 4-8, and was retained. Cable went 13-19 across two full seasons before Hue Jackson replaced him.
Cardinals: Defensive Coordinator Dave McGinnis took over in 2000 after seven games of head coach Vince Tobin’s fifth season. McGinnis went 1-8 but was retained. He went 7-9, 5-11 and 4-12 in full seasons before getting fired.
Vikings: In 2010, fifth-year head coach Brad Childress was fired after 10 games and replaced by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Frazier was 3-3 as the interim, then went 18-30-1 (includes a playoff loss) in three full seasons before getting fired.
Another group of interim head coaches was not retained the following season. The rundown:
Broncos: Running backs coach coach Eric Studesville went 1-3 after replacing Josh McDaniels in 2010.
Bills: Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell went 3-4 after replacing Dick Jauron in 2009.
Dolphins: Defensive coordinator Dan Campbell went 5-7 after replacing Joe Philbin in 2015.
Giants: Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo went 1-3 after replacing Ben McAdoo in 2017.
Jaguars: Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker went 2-3 after replacing Jack Del Rio in 2011.
Lions: Linebackers coach Gary Moeller went 4-3 after replacing Bobby Ross in 2000; Dick Jauron went 1-4 after supplanting Marty Mornhinweg in 2005.
Raiders: Assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano went 3-9 after replacing Dennis Allen in 2014.
Rams: Assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt went 4-7 after replacing Mike Martz (illness) in 2005; Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett went 2-10 after replacing Scott Linehan in 2008.
The full-time replacements were John Fox (Broncos), Chan Gailey (Bills), Adam Gase (Dolphins), Pat Shurmur (Giants), Mularkey (Jaguars), Marty Mornhinweg (Lions), Rod Martinelli (Lions), Jack Del Rio (Raiders), Linehan (Rams) and Steve Spagnuolo (Rams).
Fox went 49-22 in four years in Denver with Peyton Manning as his quarterback. Otherwise, replacing "the interim" with "somebody better" didn't get franchises very far.
Del Rio went 25-24 in three years before the Raiders caught Gruden fever.
Gase was 23-25 in three years before getting fired last Monday.
Shurmur went 5-11 in 2018. Browns fans do not have fond memories.
Mularkey was one-and-done with the Jags, going 2-14 in 2012.
Mornhinweg (5-27), Martinelli (10-38), Linehan (11-25) and Spagnuolo (10-38) encountered turbulence.
Dorsey has plenty of examples to consider. He can go back beyond the Browns' expansion era and find an interim head coach who did quite well after being retained.
In 1984, the Browns were 1-7 under Sam Rutigliano when they replaced him with Defensive Coordinator Marty Schottenheimer. In the second half of the season, Schottenheimer went 4-4 and was retained. The Browns went to the playoffs under his leadership the next four years, twice reaching AFC title games they were in position to win.
Now, plenty of people are asking, why don't the Browns just stay where they are?
Dorsey is not one to complicate matters.
He is looking long and hard at Williams in and of himself. He won't ignore analytics, but at some point it probably will boil down to going with his gut.
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On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP