It may have took longer than most expected but on Wednesday the Cleveland Browns announced they have hired Freddie Kitchens as their head coach.
Back in October, the Browns knew they needed to change course. They fired Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, allowing Gregg Williams to take the interim head coach role. Under him was Freddie Kitchens, who ascended to offensive coordinator.
On Wednesday, Kitchens took another leap, this time to head coach. During his eight-game span as the offensive coordinator, the Browns were the top-ranked team in DVOA while going 5-3.
Despite only having eight games of coordinator experience under his belt, Kitchens has been around the NFL for a long time. The 44-year-old has worked for various teams as offensive position coaches since 2006.
Most importantly, Kitchens helped to further Baker Mayfield’s development. Under Jackson and Haley, Mayfield played in six games and threw for eight touchdowns and six interceptions. In the half-season with Kitchens calling the shots, Mayfield tossed 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while his quarterback ranking improved 30 points to an impressive 106.2.
It was not only Kitchen’s relationship with Mayfield that got him the gig. He also had a big hand in turning the running back role over to Nick Chubb who finished the season tenth in total rushing yards despite only starting nine games for the team.
All that said, this was not a clear-cut choice as it may have seemed. According to FanSided’s own Matt Verderame, the Browns were close to going all-in on former Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Quoting directly from Verderame from a month ago:
Sources have told FanSided that the Browns are already working on exploring whether they will hire McCarthy. McCarthy has obvious ties to the Cleveland front office, most-notably general manager John Dorsey, vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith and assistant general manager Eliot Wolf.
However, owner Jimmy Haslam was not as sold on McCarthy. Haslam instead was pining for interim head coach and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Williams took over as the head coach for Jackson and was in charge of a defense that looked to be gaining momentum as the season progressed.
Ultimately the two settled on Kitchens. The offensive prowess and upside was too great to pass up. Kitchens may be inexperienced but the connection he has with this offensive unit featuring a rookie at two critical positions cannot be overstated. This was a solid hire from an organization that was laughed at in the past for some of their coaching decisions.