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Freddie Kitchens made quite the impression in his eight games as the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator. So much so, in fact, that the team is reportedly set to name him its next head coach on Wednesday.
The 44-year-old has had quite the wild ride over the past year. He was promoted to the Browns’ offensive coordinator position in late October after head coach Hue Jackson and former offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired. He started the season as the team’s running backs coach and an associate head coach.
Kitchens has been an NFL coach since 2006, when he was Dallas Cowboys tight ends coach. He then served as the Arizona Cardinals tight ends coach (2007-12), quarterbacks coach (2013-16) and running backs coach (2017) before joining the Browns.
Despite his lack of head coaching experience, he became a hot name given Baker Mayfield’s development under his watch. In the quarterback’s first eight games under Jackson and Haley, he threw for 1,471 yards, eight scores and six interceptions in six appearances.
But Mayfield thrived once Gregg Williams was named interim head coach and Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator, throwing for 2,254 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight picks in eight games.
His completion percentage also rose from 58.3 to 68.4, he was sacked just five times in his last eight games—after being sacked 20 times in his first six contests—and his quarterback rating soared from 78.9 to 106.2.
In the process, Cleveland went 5-3 in the second half of the season after a 2-5-1 start. Under Williams and Kitchens, the Browns won more games in a half-season than the three wins Jackson managed in his 40 games as head coach.
Unsurprisingly, that made Kitchens an interesting candidate for teams with coaching vacancies, and Cleveland pounced to promote him.
The issue was that if they only kept him in a coordinator role, he could eventually depart for a head coaching position elsewhere, so the team decided to ensure he was tethered with the quarterback for the long term.
Kitchens’ hiring is a risk, but his comfort level with Mayfield and the rest of the team’s roster and front office doesn’t make it much of a surprise.
Given his inexperience in the role, however, the new head coach would be wise to have an experienced staff around him as the Browns look to build on their successful second half of the 2018 season.