Freddie Kitchens hiring is official
Kitchens beat out six other candidates. Three of them — Williams, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores — came from defensive backgrounds. The other three — Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach — came from offensive backgrounds.
Kitchens had never been a head coach on any level nor an offensive coordinator until he replaced fired Todd Haley on Oct. 29. He is not fazed by that challenge.
“Dawg Pound, this is Freddie Kitchens,” Kitchens says on Twitter, wearing his orange Dawg Pound sweatshirt and looking into the camera in a tweet released by the Browns. “You remember when I said I’ve never been offered a head coaching job? That’s changed. I’m your new head coach, Freddie Kitchens. Let’s roll.”
Though he was never an offensive coordinator until the second half of the 2018 season, he has 13 years as an NFL assistant and seven years as a college assistant coach on his resume. Mayfield blossomed with Kitchens calling plays. Kitchens’ innovative designs, including the wishbone offense in the game against the Falcons, kept defenses off-balance.
Former Alabama head coach Gene Stallings, who coached the Crimson Tide when Kitchens was the Alabama quarterback, recalled the Browns’ new head coach as a player.
“The thing that impressed me from Day One about Freddie was his toughness,” Stallings said in a statement. “A lot of people who play quarterback are not as tough as some of the other positions. But Freddie was extremely aggressive and tough. He did a good job in the pros, worked for Bill Parcells for a year (Cowboys) and worked for Nick Saban at LSU, so he’s got a good background. I think he’ll do an excellent job for Cleveland.”
Naturally, Mayfield is fired up to have Kitchens back. Kitchens is expected to continue calling plays, but it remains to be seen how much input he will have in the week to week design of the game plan. The Browns have yet to name an offensive coordinator.
“It was great working with and learning from Freddie last year,” Mayfield said in a statement. “He has such a creative mind. He creates mismatches and just put guys in position to take advantage of their opportunities.
“He puts trust in us as players. He’s the same guy every day. I’m really excited about 2019 and the future of the Cleveland Browns.”
Mayfield completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,254 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions in the second half of the season. For perspective, he completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,471 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions in 5 ½ games in the first half of the season before the coaching change. The Browns gave up 33 sacks in the first half of the season and only five in the second half.
“We are thrilled to announce Freddie Kitchens as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns,” team owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. “He did an outstanding job in his role as coordinator, and we know that will continue as he steps into the role of head coach.
“Freddie demonstrated all of the qualities that you want in someone who is leading your organization. He has unquestioned leadership. He is a man of integrity. He fosters a collaborative environment. He gets the most out of his players and our players loved playing for him. We are happy to have him leading the Cleveland Browns going forward.”
Kitchens is the fourth head coach hired since Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns in 2012. Haslam inherited Pat Shurmur and fired him after the 2012 season. Rob Chudzinski was fired after one season when the Browns lost their last seven games in 2013 to finish 4-12. Mike Pettine lasted two seasons and was 10-22. Hue Jackson was fired midway through the 2018 season and finished 3-36-1