Midway through the season, national embarrassment Hue Jackson was fired, and the Cleveland Browns finished the season with interim coach Gregg Williams, and Kitchens taking control of the offense full-time.
What resulted was a remarkable turnaround for the Browns down the stretch, and particularly with the play of Heisman-winner and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. No surprise, the head coaching job came down to Williams and Kitchens.
Turns out that investing in your quarterback is not a bad formula in the modern NFL. Former ‘Bama QB Kitchens won the horse race and will be the Browns 11th HC in just 20 seasons.
Kitchens served as the Browns’ interim offensive coordinator the final eight games of the 2018 season. That work and his relationship with and development of Baker Mayfield were keys to his promotion.
The Browns did not want to lose Kitchens and denied him permission to talk to other teams about offensive coordinator openings during the interview process.
The difference that Freddie made after Todd Haley was shown the door is remarkable:
Under Haley, Mayfield was 1-4 as a starter (with a win in relief over the Jets) and completed 58.3 percent off his passes with eight touchdowns, six interceptions and 20 sacks. Under Kitchens, Mayfield went 5-3, completing 68.4 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions and five sacks.
With the success young guns like Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes are achieving, Cleveland thinks in promoting Kitchens they’ve found their “next McVay”...or at least finally developed a winning formula.
Kitchens, a Gene Stallings recruit, is now is part of a Mike Dubose coaching tree that is having far more success than he ever did with the whistle. Check out the unreal productivity from Kitchen’s 4-7 campaign in 1997.
The 1997 Alabama football team, which went 4-7, included the following people:— Creg Stephenson (@CregStephenson) January 9, 2019
Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens (starting QB)
Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Bruce Arians (offensive coordinator)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney (tight ends coach)
Kitchens becomes the fourth reasonably recent NFL head coach from the Tide: Gene Stallings (‘Bama 1990-1996 / Cardinals 1996-1990); Bruce Arians (‘Bama OC 1997 / Cardinals 2013-2016), and Ray Perkins (Giants ‘79-82, Bucs ‘87-90 / Bama 1983-1986).
Finally, take a look at this: With Arians being a Dubose hire (former Bear Boy), Freddie being a Stallings player, and Stallings/Perkins being Bear Boys, they can all claim first--to-third generation lineage from Paul W. Bryant. The old man still casts a long, long shadow, even 35 years after his death.
Congratulations to Coach Kitchens.