Nine games ago the head coach was Hue Jackson, Josh Gordon was considered the star WR, in the backfield was Carlos Hyde and the offensive coordinator was Todd Haley. Today, none of those guys are with the Browns.
While the interim head coaching title is affixed onto former DC Gregg Williams, it is widely known that he has been in the head coach capacity in the past. But also announced was that the new OC would be Browns’ RB coach Freddie Kitchens. Who is he, and where did he come from?
Kitchens played QB for the Alabama Crimson Tide from 1993 to 1997. He played sparingly in 1993 and then redshirted a season. Starter Jay Barker graduated in 1994 and Kitchens competed with Brian Burgdorf for the starting nod. Burgdorf played most of the season as the starter for head coach Gene Stallings as Bama went 8-3-0. Kitchens played quite a bit but threw only 127 passes with 63 completions for 811 yards and three TDs.
The following year, the Tide took home a 10-3-0 record, then lost to Florida in the SEC Championship Game. They defeated Michigan 17-14 in the Outback Bowl and finished the season with an 11th place ranking. Kitchens was now the starting QB and busted out for 2,124 yards on 302 attempts with 152 passes completed. He also sported a 50.3 completion percentage and tossed 14 TDs as well as 14 INTs. His QB rating was 115.4.
In his final season with Bama, Kitchens was once again the starter but Stallings had retired from coaching and in his stead the school hired Mike DuBose. The team finished 4-7-0 after starting the year 3-1-0 and struggled offensively. Kitchens finished the year with 121 completions from 237 attempts, 1,545 yards, 11 TDs with only four INTs, a 51.1 completion percentage and a final QB rating of 117.8.
In 1992, Upper Deck produced a 300-card Alabama football card set and featured Kitchens on card number 69.
His first coaching job was at D-II Glenville State College in Glenville, West Virginia. Kitchens was hired as the RB and TE coach and the Pioneers went 5-6-0. From there, he would also coach running backs and tight ends for LSU, North Texas and Mississippi State.
Future Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells hired Kitchens as his TE coach in 2006 with the Dallas Cowboys. This is a coaching staff that had Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer, Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn, former Dolphins’ head coach Tony Sparano, Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles, and former Browns’ OC Todd Haley who Kitchens now replaces. TE Jason Witten was elected to the Pro Bowl while under Kitchens’ direction.
That would become Parcells’ final year in coaching, so in 2007, Kitchens accepted the TE coaching position with the Arizona Cardinals. With an offensive mind, he was elevated to the QB coach in 2013 and held that position until 2016. He coached Carson Palmer in his Pro Bowl year of 2015 while with the Cardinals. Former Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Byron Leftwich was brought in to coach the QBs in 2017 and Kitchens was then switched to the RB coach where he tutored veterans Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, plus the youngster David Johnson.
When Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians announced his retirement and again, a new head coach with his own people brought in a high-probability, Kitchens accepted the Browns’ position of assistant head coach/RB coach for this year.
So, first off this will be Kitchens’ first stint as an offensive coordinator. However, he has constructed an NFL coaching career that has spanned into his 12th season coupled with seven years as a college offensive coach. He did call all the plays against Detroit in the Browns’ fourth preseason game in which 35 points were scored. Kitchens has also been on the staff with numerous coaches who have found success and have been hired as head coaches. Arians was known for his offensive prowess and developed QB Peyton Manning.
The 2018 season started with so much promise, especially on offense. But this side of the ball has sputtered.
Kitchens is new to the Browns having been hired in January. He is not an outwardly personality and doesn’t seek notoriety or attention like Haley seemingly did. He will become a coordinator that will fall in line instead of attempting to maneuver around someone else.
The continued development of QB Mayfield is paramount. The defense is the rock of the club. The offense needs to improve and time will only tell if Kitchens can do this. He has worked with -and under - some very good coaches at the NFL level and has helped develop some very good core players.
Now is his time to continue that process with the Browns.