News on the Cleveland Browns coaching staff has filtered in slowly since the organization hired Freddie Kitchens as head coach. Members of the Kitchens network (mostly Alabama Crimson Tide and Arizona Cardinal ties) and John Dorsey network (mostly Green Bay Packers ties) have been a prominent portion of the additions, but there have also been hires outside any direct connections.
The hirings have mostly been lauded by the national and local media. Here is the current state of the coaching staff.
Confirmed members of the 2019 Cleveland Browns coaching staff
There are a multitude of open-ended questions and thoughts floating around about this new coaching staff, so let’s open up the discussions.
Here we go.
Bode: He was obviously ready for his ascension to offensive coordinator, and the organization saw enough in him before the season to make him an associate head coach. However, despite his folksy, down-to-earth charm that has won many people over, it doesn’t guarantee him success as the head coach. My hope is that he has the leadership qualities, communication abilities, and organizational skills that are necessary for his position. He might. He might not. We’ll soon find out. Also, there’s a chance that Baker Mayfield is good enough to cover for some deficiencies anyway.
Gerbs: I’m more confident in Kitchens that I would have been in Gregg Williams. Kitchens seemingly has the blend of players-first likeability and “show me you’re worth the energy” discipline that will help make sure he doesn’t become powerless to the locker room while not wearing too thin on players. Would I have liked a little longer of a “tryout” as offensive coordinator? Sure. But I also didn’t want to lose out on the coach that had the support of the players, and more importantly Baker Mayfield.
Mitch: Coaching and coordinating involve some very different skills, and I don’t think you can know if someone will be a good leader of men just from coordinating success. Football acumen is necessary, but not sufficient. That said, Kitchens success as the interim offensive coordinator role speaks to his understanding of the offensive game and his ability to jump into new situations. He also has the support of the most important Cleveland Brown, Baker Mayfield, and I think those characteristics were enough for me to consider Kitchens a strong choice, despite his inexperience.
Gilbert: I love it. Freddie Kitchens has been in the league 13 years and has earned his way into this spot. When he finally got the spotlight to show what he has as a play caller, he took it and ran with it. His production in just a short span showed what he was capable of being as a head coach. I love that the Browns saw what he did last season and went with him even though he may not have the glossy resume some of the other candidates.
Frank: I am excited to see how it turns out. He seems to be a great communicator, the players clearly play hard for him and he has proven his creativity and willingness to adjust to the strengths of his roster. I am on Team Freddie.
Poloha: It really is crazy, but I mean, good for him. I had no idea who Freddie was when he was named the interim offensive coordinator but fast forward to now and I love the man. Whether it’s his relationships with Baker and other players on the team or just the way he changed the offense with his playcalling, Kitchens seems like a special coach, one that the Browns have needed for quite a while. He deserved to get his shot and I’m glad the Browns hired him to lead the charge. Now we just have to hope that Freddie is, in fact, a good head coach.
Colosimo: It’s a surprising rise, but to me it appears warranted. I was skeptical over the first 4 games but Freddie really won me over during the course of the back half of the season. His offense showed creativity and adaptability, both of which I value highly in an offensive coordinator. As far as why he was only a running backs coach this season? That’s a better question to me than how was able to win the head coaching position. It could be that it stems from not being a self promoter, but it’s impossible to answer from where I am sitting. I only know for sure that here in January of 2019, I’m happy with this hire.
Bode: The Browns interviewed a multitude of candidates; old retreads to young position coaches, offensive and defensive minds, and both internal candidates were given an opportunity. There were no failed acts of desperation over unrequited love at an Arizona hotel. They ignored pleas from candidates they had not already considered. All-in-all, the process was strong.
Gerbs: It certainly appeared so. As with the No. 1 pick, most had no idea what General Manager John Dorsey was going to do, assuming he would fall back on old habits and retreads, but they seemingly overturned many a rock and decided on Kitchens. If Dorsey is to be believed, Kitchens was not on their list, or at least not near the top, at the onset of the search but as they went along, he became the leader. To me, that’s how a good search should be: don’t do what everyone thinks you’re going to do just cuz that’s what always has been done.
Mitch: As Bode said, I really liked the Browns openness to interviewing candidates from all backgrounds and experience levels. But I would expect nothing less from such a successful team builder in John Dorsey. The real win here was the reaffirmation that Dorsey is in charge, and Haslam trusts him to do his job.
Gilbert: Yes. As I wrote following the hiring of Kitchens, I believed the Browns ran a great search process. The Browns had a search group comprised of the top minds in the organization. The search did not seem rushed either. The Browns could have spent the whole year searching back channels to find their coach ever since the firing of Hue Jackson. But following the season, the Browns interviewed seven candidates with a wide range of experience and backgrounds. They wanted to talk to these men to determine their best choice. Cleveland did not show any nepotism in their search. Connections are usually how these things proceed, but the Browns interviewed an array of coaches with many having no connection to anyone in the organization. Their candidacies were based on their merits. The search and interview process was done right.
Frank: There is so much we don’t know about coaching hires. After all, not so long ago the pundits thought the Browns came away winners with the Hue hiring and the Eagles were roundly mocked for reaching on Doug Peterson. We all know how that turned out. I love that Dorsey and co. seemingly ran a competent coaching search and had the guts to settle on the guy they thought was the right fit, cutting out all the noise from the public. Will he be successful? Who knows?, but I am thrilled with the process that led them to Freddie.
Poloha: For sure. The other guys above me pretty much said everything that needed to be said, but even if Freddie was their guy from Day 1 of interviews, they seemed to do everything the right way by interviewing other top candidates and seeing if they could prove to be better for the job than Freddie. It’s much better than just hiring him at the start of the offseason and now giving anyone else a chance.
Colosimo: Yes. The Browns interviewed a variety of head coach candidates and my assumption is that from a search perspective, we only saw the tip of the iceberg, as they had a minimum of half a season to get a jump on the process. Given the quotes from Dorsey on the subject, I doubt they left many stones unturned behind the scenes.
Bode: Kitchens plus Monken should be a fun, creative team. Campen is quite well-respected, but he has been with the Packers so long, it is hard to know how he’ll do outside that stability. Ryan Lindley and Adam Henry seem to have done a nice enough job, so it is good if they are being retained (Lindley moves from running back coach to quarterback coach). I suppose the big open question is what Campen will want from the offensive line as far as traits, particularly at tackle.
Gerbs: I love the hire of Monken, and the holdovers of Lindley and Henry are fantastic. The beloved Jake Burns had mentioned, whether it be on our Slack or on his Twitter, that Lindley was possibly a dark horse OC candidate if Kitchens got the job, so while Monken is a great hire, he interviewed for multiple head coaching positions this offseason. Lindley stepping into the OC role after an upgrade from RB coach to QB coach makes sense.
Mitch: Monken coordinated one of the most creative and successful offenses of 2018 with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston at QB. I’m very excited to see what he and Kitchens can cook up (sorry!) for Baker and the gang. This is likely a one-year gig for him, though, and he picked a good squad to audition with. Lindley coached up Jared Goff and Carson Wentz before their draft, and he clearly has a good offensive mind. I know almost nothing about Stump Mitchell, but I dare anyone to try to stump me in baseball trivia.
Gilbert: I really like the offensive staff. The Browns have a good mix of experience and bright, young offensive minds. Todd Monken is a really good hire. Pairing him with Kitchens will be a fun thing to watch. They are both bright minds with the philosophies that fit the modern NFL and the current construct of the offense. The other hire on offense I really like is James Campen as offensive line coach. His experience will be good for this young coaching staff. Overall, I like what Kitchens did on this side of the ball.
Poloha: Right now, I’m super confident but we will just have to wait until the season to see if they can all gel together. I like the fact that he hired guys with plenty of experience and different, unique minds that when put together, can potentially turn the Browns offense into something special. Monken certainly seems like a guy that is quite a good match for Freddie on the offensive side of the ball.
Colosimo: Essentially I am thrilled with the entire staff. Monken, Stumps, Henry, Lindley, and Campen to add to Freddie Kitchens? This is an A+ offensive group from where I sit today.
Bode: Most all NFL defenses are hybrid solutions with extra defensive backs and hybrid-safety/linebackers playing bigger roles, so ensuring we don’t need a “true nose tackle” should have been the first identifiable item. Wilks doesn’t, so the staff passes that mark. Jake Burns detailed out the Wilks defense at cleveland.com and it appears to blend the best of Gregg Williams aggressiveness without becoming a bend-don’t-break defense behind that aggression. The rest of the defensive staff is it should be noted (and perhaps questioned) are a mix from college and the CFL as much as NFL.
Gerbs: There is a very good track record of head-coach-turned-coordinator so the Wilks hire is a good bet in my opinion. I liked the Williams aggressiveness on defense, but dialing it back at times would be wise, (as Bode mentions Wilks seems to do) as that style is best when creating turnovers, something that didn’t happen as often in the second half of the season as it was in the first. Of course, any coach that gets to have a defense with Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Larry Ogunjobi and others should be able to produce well.
Mitch: From everything I can tell, Wilks seems like a solid hire. That said, I’m much more excited to see Gregg(gggggggg) Williams leave town than I could possibly be for any incoming coordinator. Defense is becoming harder and harder in the NFL these days, and it’s nearly impossible if the offense knows that you’re going to blitz, which Williams did at an extremely aggressive rate.
Gilbert: On defense, I really like the top of the ticket, Steve Wilks. Kitchens needed an experienced defensive coordinator and Wilks is that guy. I also like that Wilks has the experience as head coach, so Kitchens can rely on him as first-time head coach. The name that really intrigues me is Tosh Lupoi. The former Alabama defensive coordinator’s move to the NFL was surprising especially for the fact that he moved to the NFL to be the defensive line coach. I am just really intrigued by this hire. I do not think there are any questionable hires on defense.
Poloha: This side of the ball will certainly be interesting. One of the things that stick out is the different levels of coaches Freddie hired, whether it be a former NFL head coach, college coach, CFL guy, or something else. With Wilks, it certainly helps that he has previous experience both as a head coach and defensive coordinator. Much like the offensive side of the ball, I love the hires on defense as well. Hopefully, they can all gel well together and improve the defense from the start.
Colosimo: I am more wait and see when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, but I am excited to move on from the Gregg Williams experience as far as scheme is concerned.
Bode: Hopefully, Josh Cribbs is still a part of the organization though there were no apparent signs he needed to stick around as a coach. Bob Wylie seemed to do an admirable job patching together tackle play with the help of Kitchens schemes, but most think Campen is an upgrade. Clyde Simmons and Ken Delgado also seemed to do an admirable job with the defensive ends.
Gerbs: Joshie!!! Papa Gerbs loved Cribbs as a returner and he has definitely kept the home hearts burning. I’d love it if he is back with the team in some capacity.
Mitch: Nope, not really. Honestly, I can’t even think of a fired Browns coach that I’ve ever missed.
Gilbert: There is no regret for any of the 2018 coaches who are gone, but I will miss two of them, Al Saunders and Bob Wylie. I liked the experience Saunders gave the coaching staff. I know that he was really close with Hue Jackson, so I am not upset he is gone, but his experience was nice to have on the staff. I will miss Wylie strictly based on who he was as a person. Coaching-wise I could care less, but man he was gold as a person.
Frank: Although the lower level coaches are usually not in my consciousness Hard Knock kind of changed that for me. So here is a glass raised to Bob Wylie. Seemed like a really fun dude and entertained me. I would also mention that although I don’t disagree with letting Gregg Williams go, I do appreciate what he accomplished as Interim HC. He helped turn the page on a disastrous era. I haven’t enjoyed a Browns season like the last in eons. So thank you Gregg and Godspeed!
Poloha: Much like some others, Josh Cribbs was my guy. Whether it was the fact that we share the same first name or just how dominant he was back in his day, it would’ve been cool to keep him on staff but I get that Freddie wanted his own guys. Just hope that the can find a job elsewhere in the NFL and prove that he belongs in the league as a coach.
Colosimo: None. Zero. Ziltch. Nada. We fired everyone into the sun that I was hoping for.
Bode: Good luck figuring out exactly what the Browns want outside of “good football players.” There is quite a blend of backgrounds and football coaching trees despite many of the players being somewhat network hires. I am sure Kitchens, Monken, and Wilks have a few specific types of roles/traits they would like to see Dorsey address, but it will be difficult for those outside Berea to know other than seeing where there is talent deficiencies in starter or depth.
Mitch: Both Williams and Wilks run the 4-3 defense, so from a defensive personnel standpoint, roster improvements should look the same under both guys. The Browns still need depth on the defensive line. On offense, Kitchens and Monken are both creative guys, with Monken known for creating wacky and unique packages. If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll probably value versatility in personnel additions to the offense.
Gilbert: None of the coaches really require a massive change to personnel.
Poloha: Nope, at least that I can see right now but that could change, I guess. We’ll find out once free agency and the draft are here.
Colosimo: I do not see the hires signifying any change in team needs for the 2019 offseason.