The Cleveland Browns have apparently decided not to fix something that wasn’t broken.
Freddie Kitchens, who served as the team’s interim offensive coordinator after the midseason firing of Hue Jackson, will be named the next head coach, a person close to the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday.
The person requested anonymity because the Browns had not made an official announcement.
Kitchens assumed OC and play-calling duties, while working under interim head coach Gregg Williams, on Oct. 29. After starting the season 2-5-1 under Jackson, the Browns finished 5-3 under the Kitchens/Williams combo and remained in the wild-card race deep into the season. Per Cleveland.com, Williams was relieved of his duties.
Cleveland’s 7-8-1 finish was its best since a 10-6 campaign in 2007.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Kitchens’ promotion was the success rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield had under his tutelage. Over the second half of the season, Mayfield, the top pick of the 2018 draft, completed 68.4 percent of his passes and crafted a 106.2 passer rating. Mayfield’s 27 touchdown passes overall established a new rookie record, breaking the previous mark (26) shared by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.
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The next step will be a return to the playoffs, somewhere the Browns haven’t been since 2002 — the longest current drought in the NFL. But with rookies like Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb and cornerback Denzel Ward playing exceptionally well and second-year defensive end Myles Garrett blossoming into a Pro Bowler, the future appears quite bright.
The hiring of Kitchens and Denver’s choice of Vic Fangio means five of the league’s eight head coaching openings have been filled. The Jets, Bengals and Dolphins have yet to make new hires.
General Manager John Dorsey addressed the mystery of Kitchens as a potential head coaching candidate after the season. “I think you got a really good illustration of what Freddie could do in that fourth preseason game. I have always said play calling is an art, not a true science. You have to feel the moment. I think Freddiehas a good feel for that type of thing. What we would like to do is learn a little bit more about Freddie. That is why we are going to sit there and talk to him,” Dorsey said.
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