Making Sense of Freddie Kitchens’ Rise to the Top of the Browns’ Coaching Search

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Ever since the Cleveland Browns kicked off their coaching search, I’ve been unable to shake the feeling that Freddie Kitchens had a legit chance to win the job (I’ve got proof if you need it). He seemed to have many of the qualities the team is looking for, despite the fact he’s made his name on half a season as the team’s interim offensive coordinator.

While an official decision hasn’t been made just yet, recent updates indicate Kitchens may indeed be getting the gig.

If this is the route the team takes, said decision will be just as intriguing as it is complicated. While Kitchens has definitely earned the right to be considered, he’d have plenty of questions to answer in the coming year to help mitigate some legitimate concerns.

Obviously, the first thing people point to is a lack of experience. While he’s held various positions in the NFL since 2006, Kitchens would essentially be getting promoted to head coach after only eight games as an offensive coordinator. It’s not a leap to wonder if that’s a little bit too much, too fast.

With the lack of experience comes more valid questions. Is he able to build a credible coaching staff? Does plan on calling plays? If so, can he manage the increased in-game workload that comes with being a head coach, enough so that it won’t negatively impact his ability to run the offense?

More importantly, some (myself included) have attempted to dismiss the many fan requests to just keep Gregg Williams as head coach by saying we can’t just assume he’s the best man for the job based on his performance over the final eight weeks of the season. By that logic, promoting Kitchens doesn’t make much sense at all, considering we’re also judging him solely on his work during the back half of the year.

It’d be totally understandable if this last bit gives you pause when hearing about Kitchens’ sudden rise to the top of Cleveland’s list. If this is indeed the case for you, allow me to provide a suggestion.

Don’t look at this through the lens of what Kitchens isn’t bringing to the table. Instead, consider what he is bringing, and how it meshes with what the Browns are looking for in their next head coach.

Based on everything we’ve heard, Cleveland is seeking a young, offensive mind in its coaching search. Kitchens certainly fits this bill, as he single-handedly dragged a stalling Browns offense out of the mud. He displayed an ability to adapt mid-game the likes of which we haven’t seen with this team in years.

Cleveland also wants a coach who can both groom and build rapport with its franchise quarterback, Baker Mayfield. Kitchens is already off and running with this demand. Under his tutelage, Mayfield surged in the second half of the season, eventually breaking a single-season record for passing touchdowns by a rookie QB.

Per GM John Dorsey, he wants his next head coach to be a proven leader of men. More than a few reports coming out of Cleveland in the final days of the season indicated Kitchens had a lot of support from the locker room when it comes to the coaching search. There’s no denying the fact having players suddenly vouching for him as a potential head coach despite his only running the offense for two months is pretty impressive.

If you’re still not convinced, consider this – we’ve known for a while now Dorsey saw something special in Kitchens. Why else would he have promoted him to offensive coordinator midway through the season?

To that point, barely anyone had heard of Kitchens. He was simply overseeing running backs under former OC Todd Haley. When Haley was fired, everyone assumed senior offensive assistant Al Saunders or QB coach Ken Zampese would get the promotion. However, Dorsey surprised everyone and handed the keys to a then-unknown Kitchens.

To me, this alone makes Kitchens’ sudden rise far from a gut reaction. He’s not getting consideration just because he coached well for a few weeks. Kitchens is this a prime contender for the job because Dorsey has known for a while he was someone to keep an eye on.

Does this mitigate the concerns laid out above? Not necessarily. Kitchens will still have a lot to prove if given the job.

That said, the reasons why he’s under consideration clearly far outweigh any of these red flags, otherwise he wouldn’t even be this far down the process to begin with.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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