John Dorsey has made one thing clear so far this off-season with his coaching search – everyone is a candidate. There have been over 10+ names linked to either an interview or the position itself. Those names range from all sorts of experience and different levels coaching. However, two of the names that Dorsey has on his list who might be the most unexpected are the ones who took over the Browns midway through the season, Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens.
According to Charles Robinson, from Yahoo Sports, Gregg Williams and the interim staff was not Dorsey’s first choice but, more so the call from Paul DePodesta. The reason I bring this to the table is to highlight the fact that Willams and Kitchen have earned the right to at the least interview for the job.
Freddie Kitchens is a lifetime footballer, from Alabama. During his college career, he played quarterback for his home state Alabama Crimson Tide. After completing his time at Alabama as a player, Kitchens quickly joined the coaching ranks. He spent seven years at the college level coaching both running backs and tight ends. In 2006, Kitchens got his first NFL job with the Dallas Cowboys and spent the next 11 with the Arizona Cardinals. In the NFL he has mainly worked with running back and tight ends but before coming to Cleveland he was coaching quarterbacks for the Cardinals.
The first time we got introduced to Kitchens was in the last preseason game. He stepped in for Hue Jackson to take over play calling. Originally and for the beginning of the season Kitchens coached the running backs as he had done for most of his career. That group was the most consistent part and position of the Browns offense all season.
The Browns had a tremendous turn around after the interim staff took over and was led by the offense and Baker Mayfield. Everything seemed some complicated for the offense in the early stages of the season. The gameplans were not tailored to the players and there were few adjustments made throughout the games to help the team win. The offensive line improved and so, in turn, helped the passing game really open up.
One of the things that will weight largely in the decision for the next head coach will be how the scheme fits Baker Mayfield. Well, we know Kitchens has the offense that allows Mayfield to excel and make big plays. In eight games under Kitchens, Mayfield threw 19 touchdowns passes against only eight interceptions, and completed 68.4 percent of his passes. He earned a 106.2 rating in that span. He was also sacked only five times under Kitchens as opposed to 20 in the first eight games.
The statistics and accolades are great and the wins were a great foundation for Baker Mayfield’s rookie season. The key to Freddie Kitchens is the trust and relationship he has built with Mayfield. It was very much featured the sideline celebrations, mic’d up moments and the defending of Mayfield’s on-field personality that Kitchens has Mayfield’s back and vice versa.
We have seen what Baker can look like in an average offense and that is an average quarterback. However, Kitchens has shown us with a good gameplan Mayfield can be elite and lead this Browns teams to victories.
Kitchens could be our own version of Sean McVay. I mean that in the sense he is a younger head coach who is an offensive mind and can develop the rapport with his young signal caller. Kitchens has no experience being a head coach and that can not go without notice. The reason I like to compare this to McVay is that he was surrounded with a sufficient defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips who had head coach experience and could run that side of the ball with little help from McVay. Kitchens are going to need that same assistance and ability to focus on the offense to the defensive coordinator will be key to Kitchens success.
All in all, the Browns best option may end up being the one we had the whole time. Freddie may just be the greatest compliment to Baker Mayfield. I would be afraid to see what Freddie could do elsewhere and risk the growth of Baker as we bring in a new coaching staff.