The Cleveland Browns are promoting offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens as the next head coach of the Browns, according to multiple reports. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen was the first to report the hiring, adding an official announcement will come later today.
Kitchens becomes the 17th head coach in the history of the Browns and the ninth head coach since the re-birth of the Browns in 1999. In the last three games in Cleveland, Kitchens led the Browns offense to the second best passing offense and the 13th ranked rushing offense on a yards per game basis. Additionally, Kitchens and the Browns offense ranked 11th in points per game in the final three weeks as well. The offensive line only allowed five sacks under Kitchens, and the Browns average gain per play went up by two yards according to Football Outsiders.
One likely reason that the Browns decided to keep Kitchens was due to his relationship with Baker Mayfield. “The changes that were made, speak for its self. They (Dorsey) know me well enough. They’re going to make the right call. I’m not going to get involved. They know how we played at the end of the season, especially offensively,” said Mayfield following the Browns’ Week 17 loss against the Ravens regarding the coaching search. In eight games under Kitchens, Mayfield completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 2,254 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Browns reportedly dialed it down to two finalists for their head coaching position in Kitchens and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. The Browns even asked Stefanski who he would include on his coaching staff, should he get the job, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. With the news of Kitchens being named the next head coach of the Browns, Stefanski a free agent for just one day, elected to return to the Vikings as their offensive coordinator, according to ESPN.
In addition to the Browns deciding to promote Kitchens to head coach, the team has decided to move on from Gregg Williams and his defensive staff, per ESPN. Williams received a formal interview to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns on January 1, after he led the Browns to a 5-3 record as their interim head coach.
It was reported by Cleveland.com that the Browns already reached out to some of the coaching staff, asking them to stay. It is expected that Kitchens’ staff will be announced in the coming days. One name that could return is special teams coordinator Amos Jones, who spent time with Kitchens in Arizona on the Cardinals. Jones is a Bruce Arians disciple.
Kitchens was the last candidate to interview for the head coaching vacancy, which came Monday, January 7. The Browns also interviewed former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, and Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores for the job. Stefanski was the only known candidate to receive a second interview, which came on Tuesday, January 8.
An official announcement from the Browns announcing Kitchens is expected later this afternoon.