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Can the old man do in Cleveland what the young man did in Nashville?
The man's name is Gregg Williams.
In 1997, at 38, Williams was the new defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Oilers. The franchise had just moved from Houston and wouldn't be renamed Titans until 1999.
Twenty years ...
In Cleveland, Sandy Alomar had a big baseball season, Danny Ferry was playing out the string in basketball, and demolition crews were warning scavengers not to swipe bricks from the rubble of Municipal Stadium.
Williams' first NFL franchise was no rock. The "go blue" glow of Bum Phillips' old Houston Oilers had faded into a 2-14 finish in 1994, when Williams was a member of the defensive staff.
He was promoted from defensive assistant to coordinator the year the team moved. He worked in four different "home stadiums" in four years, starting with the Houston Astrodome.
The Tennessee Oilers played their 1997 home games in Memorial Stadium in Memphis. They played their 1998 campaign at Vanderbilt University.
Fans didn't flock there to watch Williams' defense. Attendance was 33,228 for a game against the Bengals on Oct. 18, 1998.
In his second year as coordinator, the defense ranked only in the middle in points allowed and yards allowed. His leading sacks man was Lonnie Marts, with four. The team was 8-8. Houston wasn't missing the Oilers, much.
Williams didn't begin to be a "name" until 1999, the year the Browns came back. There was a new stadium across the river from Tootsie's. There was a new pass rusher, rookie Jevon Kearse. The Titans lost to the Rams in a Super Bowl thriller.
Williams made a bigger name in 2000. It was the year Baltimore bragged about having the greatest defense ever. The Ravens allowed a paltry 248 yards a game. Only one defense did better that year: The one coordinated by Williams.
The man's 2000 Titans allowed 11.9 points a game, a number that sounds crazy now. In 2017, New England led the league at 15.6. Twenty-five teams gave up more than 20 a game. The Browns' average was 28.2.
Williams' final regular-season game with Tennessee, incidentally, was against the Browns on Dec. 17, 2000. It was played in an epic Lake Erie storm.
Walls of winter cascaded past the stadium lights. Eddie George went dashing through the snow. The Titans froze "Touchdown Travis" Prentice (32 yards on 12 carries) in a 24-0 win.
At 42, Williams was a hot commodity. Fourteen years after he had been the head coach of the Belton High School Pirates, outside Kansas City, he replaced Wade Phillips as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
One of Williams' coaching pals was Butch Davis, the new head coach in Cleveland. Their Bills and Browns scrimmaged each other at St. John Fisher College in Rochester.
Both were rising stars. And then they weren't.
Without Williams, the Titans' defense disintegrated under new coordinator Jim Schwartz (344.7 yards, 24.2 points a game in 2002).
Williams' magic, though, did not transfer to Buffalo. His 2001 Bills allowed 26.2 points a game and went 3-13. (Buffalo had posted an 8-8 finish in Phillips' last year.) Davis' Browns allowed 19.9 points a game and improved to 7-9 (from 2-14 in 2000).
After an 8-8 finish in 2002, Williams' career seemed on the rise after his Bills shellacked Bill Belichick's Patriots 31-0 in a season opener. Then he lost his grip. The Bills would lose the season finale 31-0 at New England and finish 6-10. Williams got fired.
He was 45 years old. His life as a head coach was over, and he says it was by his choosing. He addresses the issue, as his custom, in great detail. This is only part of how he addresses that topic now:
"I have had four jobs where I did not even have to go interview. I am not going to tell you which ones. The contract was done ... just show up and take it. But I am not going to do that unless it is programmed correct.
"I love what I do and I know how I can help an organization, but there has to be structure built in to be a successful head coach in this league. The average career of a NFL player is 3.2 years. The average career of a NFL head coach in the last 19 years is 2.3.
"Wait a minute. You have had nine head coaches at one of these clubs right now in the last 14 years. At what point in time are you going to say, 'It is not coaching any more'? Maybe it is everybody else involved in the organization, but it is not coaching. I have walked away from head coaching jobs."
He has joined the grand champion of changing regimes and coaches. He must think things will be different with the latest people.
Much has changed since the St. John Fisher days.
Davis, 65, is the new head coach at Florida International University, whose Golden Panthers have had two winning seasons in their 13 years of football existence.
Williams, who will turn 59 next month, is defensive coordinator in Cleveland, whose Browns have had two winning seasons in 18 years as an expansion team.
Once upon a time, Williams could come off as a young hothead.
At Browns practice the other day, he came off as an amusingly cantankerous old man.
The defense would line up for the routine installation of a set. Williams would howl at an improperly aligned youngster as if the cat had just swiped his roast-beef sandwich.
The unanimous perception is that Williams would be a pain in the butt for any player prone to mistakes. Also unanimous: The Browns need some pain.