During his introductory press-conference, new head coach Freddie Kitchens and GM John Dorsey discussed the importance of collaboration. Kitchens also mentioned the importance of having a good staff as there are things he does not know and good staff members support each other. Looking at the coaching staff that has been assembled it is easy to see that Kitchens and Dorsey were not just paying lip-service to these thoughts. The assistants the Browns have brought in are an eclectic group and inform the fans as to what type of coach Freddie Kitchens will be.
Let’s start with the coordinators.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken has coached at both the college and NFL level. He has worked for Jack Del Rio, Dirk Koetter and most notably, college coach Mike Gundy from whom he learned the “Air Raid” system. While Monken will not be calling plays, he will have a big role in preparing the weekly game plan and he is a veteran voice that Kitchens will be able to discuss offensive philosophies with. With no previous ties to Kitchens or Dorsey, it looks like the Browns went for the best available option instead of just giving the job to a friend of the head coach, like is often the case.
Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, just like Monken, has no previous ties to Kitchens or Dorsey. Again, they went and got the best defensive coach they could. Wilks has worked in the NFL since 2006 when he joined Lovie Smith in Chicago as a defensive backs coach. Wilks worked under Ron Rivera in Chicago, then in San Diego and finally in Carolina when Rivera became a head coach. In 2017 as defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, Wilks’ defense ranked 7th in yards allowed, 11th in points allowed and 16th in takeaways. While his season as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals did not go well, he does have experience as a head coach which can be very valuable to Kitchens.
The coordinators have combined for 37 seasons of NFL coaching experience, plus each have coached for some time at the college level as well. Also, all three are in their late 40s/early 50s, which is just a drop older than Kitchens who is currently 44 years old. This is important as it will be easier for all four of these men to work together as they are around the same age (I’m not saying coaches of different ages can’t work well together, but it is definitely easier for all involved if their age range is closer).
Looking at the position coaches the group becomes more unique. Stump Mitchell (RB coach), Ryan Lindley (QB coach) and Jody Wright (special assistant to the head coach) have close ties to Freddie Kitchens. Mitchell and Kitchens worked together in Arizona under HC Bruce Arians. Lindley played quarterback on that same Arizona team that Mitchell and Kitchens coached on. Wright goes back with Kitchens to their days coaching at Mississippi St. These three being on the staff give Kitchens people he knows and trusts.
Amongst other members of the staff, there are coaches who have coached in the NFL for a long time like James Campen (associate head coach/OL coach) and some are getting their first coaching positions like Jim Dray (OQC). They kept Adam Henry (WR coach) on the staff, which shows that Kitchens trusts Henry in the continued development of the young wide receivers like Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins. The Browns have hired assistants who have worked for Steve Wilks in Al Holcomb (LB coach) as well as a coach who was in Oklahoma the same time as QB Baker Mayfield in Tyler Tettleton (OQC). Finally, they hired Tosh Lupoi (DL coach) who worked as the defensive coordinator in Alabama and Chris Jones (Senior Defensive Specialist) who coached in the CFL.
There are a few positions on the coaching staff that have not been filled yet. There have been reports of a few former Packers coaches, Joe Whitt Jr. and Joe Philbin, possibly joining the staff. Their closeness to GM John Dorsey may help them get a job with the Browns. As they continue the process to fill in the final spots, it is important to take note that Kitchens is putting a staff together that has different levels of experience which will help the team in the long run.
Based on all that, the one question that remains is, what kind of head coach will Freddie Kitchens be? My answer, a great one! He is bringing in the best and the brightest in their specific fields. He is giving experienced coaches higher leveled jobs and he is hiring a few younger coaches to learn from the older ones. At some point, when the Browns are as successful as we presume they’ll be, some of the assistants will get head coaching opportunities. Having young coaches in the wings allows the systems to remain the same even if the names have changed.
Finally, towards the middle of the press-conference Kitchens said,
“This is the most important time for me as a head coach; it’s the staff that I build.”
So far, what has been built is top-notch and if the few open spots go the way we expect them to, the Browns will have the best new staff going into the 2019 season.
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