Hue Jackson said the decision to hire Gregg Williams as his new defensive coordinator on Sunday was as difficult as it was necessary.
But the Browns head coach believes Williams, the former Rams assistant who officially joined the coaching staff Sunday, can help one of the league's youngest teams get to where it wants to be.
"This is really about my vision," Jackson said on a conference call. "It's about what I am trying to create here in Cleveland and how I see it and what is it going to take for us to get there … these are tough decisions. These are hard decisions. But they are decisions to me, from a leadership position, that has to be made if you are going to create the winning environment that I hope to create here."
Williams comes to Cleveland with 26 years (including 15 as a defensive coordinator) of NFL experience, including the past three as the Rams' defensive coordinator. He helped Los Angeles finish ninth in total defense last season.
Jackson outlined why he tapped the veteran Williams, whose defenses have finished in the top five in total defense five times, including the top defense in the NFL in 2000.
"I think he is one of the better coordinators in the National Football League. I think that is proven," he said. "The guy has a ton of skins on the wall, doing this in a lot of different places with a lot of different players and a lot of different systems. I think that I need growth over there as fast as I can get it.
"I truly believe in his track record and what he has done. Like I said, this wasn't an easy decision. I agonized over this more than anybody because it does, it hurts some people. But when I look at it at the end of the day, I have to do what I think is right to get us to where we need to be."
Jackson also expressed disappointment at the external perception of finger-pointing at Ray Horton, whom the team parted ways with after one season.
"If anybody, the finger is pointed back at me. It's not pointed at Ray. At the end of the day, the whole bus stops with me. So I get it. I know what it looks like and what the perception is. But that is not what it is," he said.
"It's my decision and this is through my time of thinking through what I think is going to be best for us moving forward, for our football team and where I want to take it and what I thought we needed to do to get there. There are decisions that are going to be made that are very difficult.
"They are hard. But you have to make them if that is where you are trying to go. I feel very comfortable in what we have done and where we are trying to head. I just thank the organization for allowing me to do the things that I think need to be done to get to where we need to be."
The Browns finished 31st in total defense (392.4) and points per game (28.3) this past season.
Williams, who is best known for his base 4-3 scheme that adapts to the strengths of the defensive personnel, inherits a unit that includes veterans in Joe Haden, Desmond Bryant, Jamie Collins Sr., and Tramon Williams Sr. as well as up-and-coming players like Christian Kirksey, Jamar Taylor, Danny Shelton, and Emmanuel Ogbah.
"I think his system gives us a chance, and what he has done is adapt many a different schemes that he has been a part of and that he knows to the talent that is there," Jackson said.
"I think we all know we are going to have an opportunity to improve our football team as we move forward via free agency and the draft, and I think that is very important, but again I think he is going to bring us the type of defense that I am looking for as we move forward here."
Asked if the Browns will move to a 4-3 base defense, Jackson said "we're going to be what we think is best to help our football team be as good as we need to be on defense" and pointed to Williams' various backgrounds.
"He comes from a 4-3 system. He comes from a 3-4 system. He has done a little bit of it all," Jackson said. "We need to look at our personnel and see where we are and find out what is best to get our men to play the best we can get them to play."
Jackson emphasized the Browns' efforts to build continuity, saying Sunday's change is aimed at "trying to be the best we can be everywhere."
"I get what it feels like to everybody and I respect that, but at the same time, I think everybody would be disappointed in me if I did not as the leader make tough decisions that I think are going to get us to where we want to go to," he said.
"It goes both ways so you are kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't. I don't worry about that. I'm worried about getting this organization, this football team and this coaching staff as good as I can get it, and I think that's my charge."