The closer we get to the end of the NFL season, the closer we get to answering one of the biggest questions hovering over the Cleveland Browns.
Who’s going to be their head coach in 2019?
As is the case with anything involving GM John Dorsey, we’ve received very few hints regarding what direction this is going to go. Outside of a few rumors here and there, nobody seems able to make a concrete prediction about who’ll be roaming the sidelines for this team next season.
That said, we may have received a significant clue this past Sunday.
Per Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, Cleveland’s win over the Denver Broncos has reportedly “locked up” the job of current offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens. While no confirmation has come from the team, it’s the most substantial rumor we’ve heard regarding Cleveland’s coaching staff.
If this is indeed the case, and Kitchens is all but certain to return as the Browns’ offensive coordinator, it could be seen as the team tipping its hand with its approach at head coach.
To start, I 100% understand why Kitchens would already be getting a stamp of approval from Cleveland’s front office. What he’s done with the Browns offense can’t be overstated, as the team has improved in almost every offensive stat since he took over.
More importantly, he’s fast-tracked the growth of rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.
When looking at Mayfield’s game log from this season, you can practically pinpoint when former coaches Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired and when Kitchens took over the offense. While Mayfield’s performance was uneven as he dealt with Jackson and Haley’s power struggle, Kitchens has him firing on all cylinders.
Knowing how important Mayfield’s growth is when it comes to the future of this team, it’s only natural for Cleveland to want to maintain a coach who has him playing this well.
However, it’s worth noting how this impacts Cleveland’s upcoming coaching search.
One would think moving forward with Kitchens as the official offensive coordinator would limit the number of candidates interested in the Browns’ head coaching gig. Most coaches prefer to bring in their own staff, ensuring they work with people they feel most comfortable with. It’s not a leap to assume some potential candidates will be turned off by the idea of not getting to choose their own OC.
As a result, maintaining Kitchens would essentially be eliminating any candidates wanting to make their own hires.
While we don’t know who on Dorsey’s list falls under that category (or who’s on it, in general), we do know two coaches who would have zero problem with keeping Kitchens in the picture.
One would be the man currently running the show, Gregg Williams, someone who gains more fan support with every victory. While it’s difficult to believe Dorsey considered Williams a legit candidate when he initially made him the interim coach, it’s equally tough to argue against the results we’ve seen since. He’s already notched more wins in six games than Jackson did in two and a half years, and is getting the most out of his team on both sides of the ball.
Though Glazer’s report also noted Cleveland wasn’t ready to consider offering the job to Williams just yet, locking in Kitchens for 2019 sure does increase the chances of this coming to fruition.
The other candidate this news seemingly helps is Bruce Arians.
The current retiree has been less than subtle in campaigning to be the next Browns head coach, taking multiple opportunities to stump for the job. One of the things Arians initially noted when first vying for the gig was his insistence Kitchens would remain on his staff as offensive coordinator.
While Arians’ remarks are currently the only thing linking him to the job, his name would seemingly rise on the list if a requirement is ensuring Kitchens stays in the picture.
There remains a possibility that some yet-to-be-named candidates would be on board with keeping Kitchens on their staff. The Browns could potentially look to hire someone to who, instead of wanting to bring in his own staff, would just oversee everything while maintaining the status quo.
As it stands, these three appear to be the most logical scenarios, at least if the rumors about Kitchens staying put are true. If this is indeed the case, though, we’re finally starting to get an idea of what Dorsey is looking for as he preps to make his most important decision as Browns GM.