That's the way it was supposed to be, right? Once Joe Gibbs retired, owner Dan Snyder would simply promote the fiery assistant who led the defense during the four seasons of Gibbs' second term.
It didn't happen, of course. Williams was interviewed multiple times at great length by Snyder, but Jim Zorn came out of nowhere to get the job instead. Williams was fired and is now the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who visit the Redskins on Thursday night in the final preseason game for both teams.
So why will he be on the opposite sideline? As it always seems to be with everything with Williams, it all came down to personality.
"When Gregg and Dan got together, there's got to be a process there where it works smoothly and a comfort level builds up," Gibbs, who kept in touch with Snyder during the interview process, said in an interview shortly after Zorn was hired. "For whatever reason, sometimes it just doesn't work. ... The owner's got to be comfortable. You've got to have a chemistry there and feel good that this fits - because they go through so much together."
That explanation makes sense to those who know Williams well, including the former Redskins players who still hold him in high regard. Williams is tough love personified, and his temper and attitude have a history of rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. While few question his credentials as an assistant, a previous three-year head coaching stint with the Buffalo Bills did not go well.
"He can be tough to swallow," Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington said. "But Gregg's going to be Gregg. You wouldn't want him any other way."
"I think extremely bad," Fletcher said. "He's very competitive. He wants to win, and obviously I think the fact that he's going against the Redskins, that's just icing on the cake. He would love to have a great showing against us to kind of say, you know ... "
Fletcher didn't finish the thought, but it's not hard to fill in the blank.
"Obviously, when you're fired," Fletcher added, "it leaves a bad taste in your mouth."
Williams isn't talking publicly about the game against his former team, or about anything else, for that matter. His relationship with reporters in Washington wasn't exactly cozy, and his only meeting with the media in Jacksonville came at a minicamp in May. He gave nothing but politically correct answers in an interview with the Washington Post conducted before the start of training camp, saying he maintains "a very good relationship" with Snyder without a hint as to what went wrong in his quest to succeed Gibbs.
Not all of his former colleagues are going out of the way to wax nostalgic about Williams. Greg Blache, who was promoted to take Williams' job, gave a quick "no" when asked if he's spoken to his former boss since Williams left Washington.
"It's not a social visit," said Blache, when asked about Thursday's game. "We've got 22 cuts to make on Friday. My main concern is trying to figure out if I'm making the right decision on who to cut and who not to cut. It'll be good to see Gregg for a second and say hi, but my mind will be on just trying to look at my guys' eyes, how they look warming up, who's ready to play."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press