Browns will reportedly name offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens their next head coach
Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator after Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired
The Cleveland Browns have apparently found their next head coach. According to a report from ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen, the Browns will announce the hiring of Freddie Kitchens — who served as the team’s offensive coordinator after the firings of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley — as their coach on Tuesday afternoon.
With Kitchens calling the plays, the Browns also saw a massive spike in their offensive efficiency, as measured by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The 30th-ranked offense by DVOA upon Jackson and Haley’s exit, the Browns eventually finished the season ranked 17th. They saw the single largest change in offensive DVOA from Week 9 through the end of the season, indicating that Kitchens, Mayfield, Chubb, and company really took off over the second half of the year.
Williams was reportedly relieved of his defensive coordinator duties on Wednesday and is not longer with the Browns.
Kitchens will now be tasked with overseeing the development of Mayfield, who looks like he has the potential to be one of the league’s best quarterbacks. The Browns have a strong offensive line, plus Chubb and tight end David Njoku as strong offensive weapons, but need to fill out their wide receiver corps around Jarvis Landry. The team’s defense has a few stars or potential stars as well in Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and Larry Ogunjobi, and it will be interesting to see who Kitchens taps as his defensive coordinator because that coach will get to work with some high-end talent. The future is as bright for the Browns as it has been in a very long time, and Kitchens is apparently the man the front office thinks can get the most out of this group.
The Cleveland Browns will hire Freddie Kitchens to be the 18th head coach in team history on Wednesday, sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
Kitchens served as the Browns’ interim offensive coordinator the final eight games of the 2018 season. That work and his relationship with and development of Baker Mayfield were keys to his promotion.The Browns did not want to lose Kitchens and denied him permission to talk to other teams about offensive coordinator openings during the interview process.
Interim coach and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was relieved of his duties and is no longer with the team.
Kitchens wasn’t well known when the Browns moved him from assistant head coach/running backs coach to interim offensive coordinator after Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were let go. When he started to impress with his playcalling and his name reached the rumor mill as a possible head coach, Kitchens heard the critics say he wasn’t ready.
His retort: “Who the hell is ready to be a head coach?”
General manager John Dorsey said the day after the season that Kitchens had “moved the bar on the offensive side of the ball.”
“He’s gotten the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quicker,” Dorsey said. “I think he’s put some flair and different route combinations together that help out the quarterback.”
Under Haley, Mayfield was 1-4 as a starter (with a win in relief over the Jets) and completed 58.3 percent off his passes with eight touchdowns, six interceptions and 20 sacks. Under Kitchens, Mayfield went 5-3, completing 68.4 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions and five sacks.
Mayfield’s presence was important in the hiring process. The Browns view him as the future, to the point that they face-timed him into interviews, according to a source with knowledge of the interviews.
Kitchens played quarterback in college under Gene Stallings at Alabama. He’s coached under Bill Parcells and Bruce Arians, and with Haley. He worked 11 seasons in Arizona — as running backs, quarterbacks and tight ends coach — before joining the Browns.
During the season, Kitchens talked about his desire to stay with the Browns.
“I like it here and I like it here a lot, and everybody around here knows that I like it here,” he said in December. “I love the town of Cleveland. Cleveland and I get along well. I didn’t have a dad as a coach, OK?
“I didn’t have a starting point in this league. I grew up the son of a tire maker at Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Gadsden, Alabama. Benjamin E. Mays said: ‘Those who start behind in the game of life must run faster to catch up,’ and I feel like I’ve been running fast my whole life. And that’s the way it’s going to continue, so whether it’s here or what, I’m just here to do a job right now, this week and this year.”
Kitchens is the ninth full-time coach since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999 and the 11th if interim coaches are included. He’s also the sixth head coach since Jimmy Haslam took ownership of the team in 2012 (Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine, Jackson and interim Gregg Williams).
The Browns chose Kitchens after interviewing him, Williams, New Orleans Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski (who interviewed twice), Patriots linebackers coach/defensive play caller Brian Flores and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
Stefanski, a finalist for the Browns’ head-coaching job, is returning to Minnesota as the Vikings offensive coordinator, according to a source.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano contributed to this report.