Kitchens hired by Browns
Freddie Kitchens had something on his coaching resume no other candidate could match. He made former Oklahoma star Baker Mayfield a better quarterback.
Kitchens, who helped Mayfield turn his rookie season into a recordbreaking one during an impressive eight-game stint as the Browns offensive coordinator, was named Cleveland's 17th full-time coach on Saturday, capping a remarkable personal rise up the coaching ranks.
His next goal: Take the Browns where they've never been — the Super Bowl.
"It's an honor to be named the head coach of the Cleveland Browns," Kitchens said in a release. "As I've said before, I think Cleveland and I get along pretty well. My family and I have really enjoyed our time with this organization and in this community over the last year.
"There are a lot of great people in this front office that I'm excited to continue to work alongside with a singular focus on winning. I've been to one Super Bowl that didn't end the way I wanted it to and that disappointing memory is what really drives me."
The affable 44-yearold Kitchens is the ninth coach since the Browns' 1999 expansion rebirth and fourth hired since 2012 by owners. As it turns out, general manager John Dorsey didn't have to search far or wide for "a man of character, a guy who can instill leadership into these young men."
Kitchens was there the whole time.
"We had a deliberate and thorough process and one thing became evident — that Freddie is the best person to lead the Cleveland Browns," said Dorsey, who has lifted the Browns from laughable to legitimate in just one year. "We saw firsthand what Freddie is able to do."
Kitchens will be formally introduced Monday at a news conference in FirstEnergy Stadium.
It's hard to imagine Kitchens was part of Dorsey's long-term vision when he was hired to coach running backs on Hue Jackson's staff after 11 seasons as an Arizona Cardinals assistant. But when Jackson and coordinator Todd Haley were fired on Oct. 29, Kitchens took the offensive reins and Mayfield and his teammates took off.
Under Kitchens' leadership, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft threw 19 of his NFL rookie record 27 touchdown passes. Mayfield erased any doubts he's the coveted franchise quarterback that has eluded the Browns for decades.
Kitchens and Mayfield connected on a personal level, two former college quarterbacks who bonded over a shared passion and senses of humor.
"It was great working with and learning from Freddie last year," Mayfield said after Kitchens' hiring was announced. "He has such a creative mind. He creates mismatches and just put guys in position to take advantage of their opportunities. He puts trusts in us as players. He's the same guy every day."