Freddie Kitchens

Coaching Notes: Kitchens, 49ers, Bucs

Freddie Kitchens will see his role expand in New York. The Giants are promoting the former Browns HC from tight ends coach to senior offensive assistant, according to ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan (on Twitter). Earlier this month, we heard the Giants may be eyeing more responsibility for Kitchens. Derek Dooley, who received interest from other teams, will take over as the Giants’ tight ends coach, Raanan adds. Previously the Mizzou offensive coordinator, Dooley joined Joe Judge‘s staff last year. The Giants used Kitchens as their interim play-caller while Jason Garrett battled COVID-19 last season and will lean on him more in 2021.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • To replace Antwaan Randle El on their coaching staff, the Buccaneers will also turn to a recently retired quarterback. Thad Lewis will rise from intern to offensive assistant on Bruce Arians‘ staff, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Randle El left to become the Lions’ wide receivers coach. Lewis bounced around the NFL for nearly eight years; he was most recently with the Ravens in 2017.
  • A day after hiring Jay Valai as cornerbacks coach, the Eagles will lose him. Alabama will instead hire Valai, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg (on Twitter). Announced as one of the Eagles’ hires earlier this week, Valai will join former Texans HC Bill O’Brien at Alabama. Valai will replace Karl Scott as the Crimson Tide’s cornerbacks coach. Scott joined the Vikings’ staff this week.
  • Hired recently after a one-year stint as Lions DC, Cory Undlin will serve as the 49ers‘ secondary coach and defensive passing-game specialist. Fellow former DC James Bettcher will be a senior defensive assistant and the team’s run-game overseer on that side of the ball. The 49ers are promoting Darryl Tapp to assistant defensive line coach and hiring former wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and Klay Kubiak as quality control assistants. Klay is one of Gary Kubiak‘s sons. Even after Gary’s retirement, there are still three Kubiaks in the NFL — Klay and brothers Klint (the new Vikings OC) and Klein (a Cowboys scout). Hankerson also has a history with Kyle Shanahan, having played with Washington from 2011-13.
  • The Bengals hired Justin Hill as running backs coach. Hill will come to Cincinnati from the college ranks, having spent the past six seasons as Tulsa’s running backs coach. This will be his first NFL job. The Bengals are also promoting former NFL wideout Troy Walters to receivers coach. Walters served as Cincy’s assistant wideouts coach last season, working under Bob Bicknell.
  • Robert Saleh made an interesting hire recently. The new Jets HC added Steve Scarnecchia as his chief of staff, per Brian Costello of the New York Daily News. The son of longtime Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Steve spent the past six years as the Falcons’ assistant to the head coach. Steve Scarnecchia was part of both the Patriots’ Spygate scandal, working in the team’s video department from 2001-04, and was the Broncos staffer whose filming of a 49ers walkthrough in 2010 led to Josh McDaniels‘ firing in Denver. The younger Scarnecchia will accompany new Jets DC Jeff Ulbrich in moving from Atlanta to New York.

Jason Garrett Expected Back As Giants OC

The Giants dropped from 18th to 31st in scoring offense last season, and Daniel Jones did not make considerable strides. But the team is not planning to make big changes to its offense.

Jason Garrett is expected to stay on as New York’s offensive coordinator, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com notes. Some potential turnover at this position coach level could take place, and Raanan adds assistants like tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens, QBs coach Jerry Schulplinski and wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert may take on increased responsibility. (Tolbert has interviewed for Minnesota’s OC job.) But Garrett will still run the show.

This is not especially surprising. Dave Gettleman said last month, as Garrett interviewed for the Chargers’ HC job, he was “antsy” about the prospect of losing his OC. Keeping Garrett will ensure Jones only has two play-callers in his first three seasons, though the Giants have plenty of improvements to make on offense. Saquon Barkley‘s expected re-emergence will certainly help.

Joe Judge already fired a coach Garrett brought in, ex-Cowboys O-line assistant Marc Colombo, and Raanan adds the new Giants HC’s hands-on approach with the team’s offense caused tension between he and Garrett. Last season was Garrett’s first as a full-time play-caller since 2012.

One of the changes on Big Blue’s staff will be replacing Dave DeGuglielmo. The veteran O-line coach is not expected back, and Raanan notes that the Giants have interviewed ex-Texans O-line coach Mike Devlin and Giants assistant O-line coach Ben Wilkerson for the job.

COVID-19 Latest: Giants, Bubble, Rosters

The biggest game (to date) of this Giants season will take place without Jason Garrett. The team’s first-year offensive coordinator tested positive for COVID-19, and the Giants announced former Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens will call plays against his old team in Week 15. The Giants converted their Thursday practice into a remote session and have announced no high-risk close contacts of Garrett have emerged. The former Cowboys HC may also miss the Giants’ Week 16 game against the Ravens. Hired as Cleveland’s running backs coach in 2018, Kitchens rose to the position of offensive coordinator that year and made the jump to become the Browns’ head coach in 2019. That ended in a one-and-done scenario, but Kitchens found his way to Joe Judge‘s staff this year.

Here is the latest on the NFL’s coronavirus front:

  • In another blow to Big Blue, the team announced James Bradberry will miss Sunday night’s game. The Giants placed their top cornerback, and arguably their top player this season, on the reserve/COVID-19 list. This is not related to Garrett’s positive virus test, according to the team, which revealed Bradberry has not tested positive for the coronavirus. Bradberry came in contact with a COVID-positive person while receiving chiropractic treatment away from the Giants’ facility, according to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter). The Giants not having Bradberry will weaken their chances of knocking off a nine-win Browns team. Pro Football Focus rates Bradberry as its No. 6 overall corner.
  • Not only will the NFL not follow the other three major American professional sports by using a centralized playoff location, the league will also not mandate teams be sequestered in home-market bubbles for the postseason. Teams may still provide hotel rooms for players who choose such an arrangement, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets, but the league and the NFLPA agreed they will not force players on playoff teams to be away from their families.
  • Following the unusual Dez Bryant situation that left the Ravens a man down for their Week 13 game against the Cowboys, the NFL made another adjustment to its pregame roster policy. If a player must leave the field pregame because of a positive COVID test or because he qualifies as a high-risk close contact, teams may activate a replacement, Pelissero tweets. The usual rule of teams submitting their inactives 90 minutes before games left Baltimore down a player against Dallas, after Bryant was forced to leave the field shortly before kickoff. Teams will now be able to make an emergency activation in such instances.

Giants To Hire Freddie Kitchens

Freddie Kitchens has landed a new job. The former Browns head coach is expected to join the Giants as their new tight ends coach, according to Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

Kitchens was one-and-done as the Browns’ head coach in 2019. Under his watch, the Browns limped to a 6-10 finish. But, before that, Kitchens made a major impression in the league for his work on the Browns’ offensive coaching staff. When he took over as OC in 2018, the Baker Mayfield-led attack started to click in a major way and Kitchens was widely credited for getting Cleveland on track.

Kitchens won’t be considered for head coaching vacancies anytime soon, but he remains a well-regarded offensive coach. In New York, he’ll reunite with new head coach Joe Judge – the two men overlapped at Mississippi State.

As the Giants’ tight end coach, Kitchens will be responsible for the development of Ole Miss product Evan Engram. Engram, a 2017 first-round pick, has missed 13 games over the past two seasons, but he’s impressed while on the field. In an injury-shortened eight-game season, Engram finished 2019 with 44 catches for 467 yards and three touchdowns.

New York is also adding Mizzou offensive coordinator Derek Dooley to its offensive staff, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Dooley worked as the Cowboys’ wide receivers coach from 2013-17 before returning to the collegiate ranks. He had previously served as the head coach for Louisiana Tech and Tennessee.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: McCown, Kitchens, Woods

Whenever Josh McCown decides to hang up his cleats, it sounds like he’ll have an opportunity to pursue a new career path. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Eagles discussed “the idea of [McCown] returning to the team in a coaching role” next season.

Notably, the exit meeting was attended by the 40-year-old quarterback, head coach Doug Pederson, general manager Howie Roseman… and owner Jeffrey Lurie, who rarely makes an appearance at those meetings. It’s uncertain if McCown was offered a definitive coaching gig, and the 40-year-old ultimately couldn’t commit to retirement. At the very least, it sounds like the organization is optimistic about the veteran’s coaching ability.

McCown had retired following the 2018 season and caught on with ESPN as an analyst. However, he later signed with the Eagles following injuries to backups Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler. The 18-year veteran ended up appearing in three games for Philly, and he filled in for Carson Wentz during the team’s playoff loss to the Seahawks.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the league…

  • Earlier this month, we heard whispers that former Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens could land with the Giants. However, Dan Duggan of The Athletic writes that the coach “isn’t a lock” to land in New York. We learned yesterday that the two sides still hadn’t finalized an agreement. Kitchens worked alongside new Giants head coach Joe Judge during their time at Mississippi State, and there was speculation that the 45-year-old could join the staff as a tight ends coach. The Browns went 6-10 during Kitchens’ lone season as their head coach, and he was canned following the regular season.
  • Before hiring Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator, the Giants had interest in Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn, reports Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post (via Twitter). While he missed out on the gig, the 47-year-old still interviewed for another role on the Giants coaching staff today. Prior to this stint with New Orleans, the 1994 first-round pick served as the Browns assistant defensive backs coach.
  • Joe Woods is the favorite to become the Browns defensive coordinator, but the 49ers won’t let that happen without a fight. Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune tweets that San Francisco is making a “late push” to retain their defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator. Woods has coached in the NFL since 2004, and he served as the Broncos defensive coordinator between 2017 and 2018.
  • Speaking of the Browns, head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed that three assistants will be sticking around next season (via the team’s website): special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, assistant special teams coach Doug Colman and run game coordinator/running backs coach Stump Mitchell.
  • Vikings receivers coach Drew Petzing won’t be back with the team next season, reports Goessling (via Twitter). Petzing had spent the past six seasons with the organization, spending time with wideouts, running backs, and quarterbacks.

Coaching Notes: Giants, O’Connell, Browns

Since former Mississippi State coworker Joe Judge landed the Giants‘ HC job, Freddie Kitchens has been linked to a staff position. A report circulated Tuesday indicating Judge will hire Kitchens for an unspecified role (Twitter link via AL.com), but ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan tweets nothing is finalized between the Giants and the former Browns coach. The Giants have hired a quarterbacks coach, Jerry Schuplinski, but certainly could add the longtime offensive assistant in another capacity.

Here is the latest from the coaching carousel:

  • Before deciding to reunite with Scott Turner, Ron Rivera interviewed 2019 Redskins offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell for the job, J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington notes. Rivera was interested in former Giants HC Pat Shurmur for OC, but he declined the interview and opted for the Broncos’ play-calling job. O’Connell landed on his feet as well, becoming the Rams’ offensive coordinator.
  • While the Kitchens hire is not yet certain, veteran secondary coach Jerome Henderson will be joining Judge’s Giants staff, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio tweets. Most recently the Falcons’ DBs coach/defensive passing-game coordinator, the 50-year-old Henderson has also coached the Jets’, Browns’ and Cowboys’ secondaries dating back to 2008. Henderson was a 1991 first-round pick who played eight NFL seasons.
  • The Giants will also add Jody Wright to their staff, according to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman (Twitter link). Wright worked with Judge at Mississippi State in the 2000s and was most recently an offensive assistant with the Browns under Kitchens in 2019. Wright also spent time at Alabama during the 2010s and was an assistant head coach at UAB prior to relocating to Cleveland.
  • On the subject of the Browns, they are not retaining several Kitchens staffers. Most notably, Kevin Stefanski will not bring back quarterbacks coach Ryan Lindley, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Lindley, tight ends coach John Lilly, assistant defensive line coach John Parella and quality control staffers Deuce Schwartz, Tyler Tettleton and Alonso Escalante will not be back. Lindley, 30, served as Browns running backs coach after Kitchens was promoted to OC midway through the 2018 season, and the former quarterback held Cleveland’s QBs coach job this past season.
  • The Cardinals hired another recent Browns staffer, bringing in offensive assistant Jim Dray, Yates adds. A former Cardinals seventh-round pick in 2010 as a tight end, Dray played eight seasons — mostly in Arizona and Cleveland — and wound up with the Browns in 2019 as an offensive quality control coach.
  • Recently notified he was out in Cleveland, James Campen may have an opportunity with Carolina. The Panthers are interested in the former Browns offensive line coach, David Newton of ESPN.com tweets. Campen was Mike McCarthy‘s offensive line coach from 2007-18 and spent 15 years as a Green Bay assistant prior to his Cleveland move last year. The Browns hired Bill Callahan to replace him on Monday.

Coaching Notes: Giants, Kitchens, Cowboys

The Giants have interviewed both former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and incumbent offensive coordinator Mike Shula for their vacant OC position, but new head coach Joe Judge may have a few other names in mind, as well. Judge is interested in speaking to ex-Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens and former Dolphins OC Chad O’Shea about positions on his staff, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Kitchens served as the Browns’ offensive play-caller during the latter portion of the 2018 campaign before becoming head coach in 2019, while O’Shea lasted only one year in Miami. Both could presumably also be considered as position coaches on Judge’s staff.

Here’s more from the coaching circuit:

  • The Broncos have formally announced the addition of former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur as their new offensive coordinator, and Shurmur will receive a two-year contract, tweets Mike Klis of 9 News. Shurmur reportedly had other offers on the table, but chose the opportunity in Denver after the Broncos surprisingly fired first-year play-caller Rich Scangarello earlier this week. A longtime NFL OC, Shurmur will bring in his own quarterbacks coach, as incumbent T.C. McCartney has been fired, per Benjamin Allbright (Twitter link).
  • Former Maryland interim head coach Matt Canada has been hired as the Steelers‘ new quarterbacks coach, the club announced. Pittsburgh did not have a formal QBs coach in 2019, as offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner held the role. Canada, who has a long history of coaching in the collegiate ranks, took over as the Terrapins’ interim coach in 2018 after D.J. Durkin was placed on administrative leave.
  • New Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has hired Skip Peete as running backs coach, reports Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Peete, who previously coached in Dallas from 2007-12, spent the last four seasons with the Rams, and also has experience with the Raiders and Bears. He’ll be replacing Gary Brown, who had taken over for Peete in 2013.
  • The Panthers requested permission to interview Saints assistant offensive line coach Brendan Nugent, but New Orleans rejected the ask because Carolina is a division rival, according to Jeff Duncan of The Athletic (Twitter link), who adds Nugent is a longtime friend of new Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Nugent previously spent time with the Bears as well as in the collegiate ranks.
  • Michigan linebackers coach Anthony Campanile is joining the Dolphins‘ staff in an as-yet unspecified role, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Campanile recently turned down an opportunity to become the defensive coordinator at Rutgets, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link).

Browns Notes: Stefanski, DePodesta

Recently, there were rumblings that candidates in the Browns coaching search had to agree to turn in game plans to owner Jimmy Haslam and the team’s analytics department. That won’t be the case, new head coach Kevin Stefanski says.

It’s not true,’’ he said (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). “I like that report. That was a good one. It’s silly season for that type of stuff. I understand that. But, to me, analytics — I can’t say it enough — it’s a tool, it’s a tool that helps.’’

Stefanski told the Browns that he is willing to use analytics, which may have helped his cause, but Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta says his willingness to use the stats was not the deciding factor in the hire.

Here’s more from Cleveland:

  • Curious about DePodesta’s role in Cleveland and why he performs his job while living in San Diego? This piece from Cleveland.com’s Scott Patsko tackles many of the questions surrounding the former MLB exec. When it comes to the draft, DePodesta says he’ll just be one voice in the figurative room and not the final decision-maker. “I’m not going to pick the players, but I am going to try and make sure that the players we do pick align with our vision of what we believe is a winning franchise,” he said. “My charge is not to watch tape and say, ‘Oh, man, this guy’s got great feet.’ We’ve got scouts who are way better and way more qualified than I am to do that. But when we come down to make a selection, it is my role to say, ‘Okay, are we making a decision here that actually aligns with our way?’”
  • In 2019, first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens refused to turn play-calling duties over to Todd Monken, even though Monken was the more experienced coach. Stefanski, who is still searching for his OC, says he’s undecided as to whether he’ll handle the play-calling. “I have had really good conversations with a bunch of head coaches, some that have called the plays, some that have not,’’ Stefanski said (via Cabot). “Again, I am all about what is best for the Cleveland Browns. If that is me calling the plays, great. If it’s not, I am fine with that too.”

Giants To Consider Freddie Kitchens?

Freddie Kitchens was one-and-done as the Browns’ head coach, but he could land on his feet in New Jersey. New Giants head coach Joe Judge is expected to speak with Kitchens about a spot on his offensive staff, a source tells ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Latest On Giants’ Draft Plans]

Kitchens and Judge worked together at Mississippi State, so the two coaches have history together. Kitchens’ stock has obviously cooled over the last year, but he was largely credited for the Browns’ progress on offense in 2018 and the development of quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Judge could view Kitchens as a quality mentor for his own young QB, Daniel Jones. It’s not clear whether Kitchens would be considered for the offensive coordinator role, however, or a different job on that side of the ball.

Kitchens ascended from associate head coach/running backs coach to the Browns’ OC job midway through the 2018 season. Last year, the Browns went 6-10 with Kitchens as their head coach.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Considering Mike McCarthy-Eliot Wolf Pairing

Despite John Dorsey and the Browns parting ways, assistant GM Eliot Wolf remains in his position. And the Browns are considering pairing him with another former Packers coworker.

Mike McCarthy will be the Browns’ first HC interview, with Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer noting the longtime Green Bay coach will meet with the Browns on Thursday. The Browns, who have gone through numerous front office structures under Jimmy Haslam, are considering a McCarthy-Wolf power structure, Cabot adds.

Wolf was in Green Bay for each of McCarthy’s nine playoff appearances as Packers coach, working with the Packers from 2004-17. The final four of those years featured Wolf as either the Packers’ director of player personnel or director of football operations. The second-generation NFL executive left for Cleveland in 2018, when former Packers exec Dorsey joined as Browns GM. The Browns appear to be considering a promotion for the son of Hall of Fame exec Ron Wolf. Eliot Wolf has interviewed for GM jobs in the past, and he may be back on the radar — despite the latest upheaval at Browns headquarters.

McCarthy, 56, has already interviewed with the Panthers and will meet with the Giants this weekend. He was on the Browns’ radar during the 2019 hiring period but did not meet with team brass. The Browns ended the 2010s with seven head coaches and are obviously hoping for some semblance of stability entering the next decade.

Several other candidates are on the Browns’ HC radar. Josh McDaniels, Eric Bieniemy, Greg Roman, Kevin Stefanski and 49ers assistants Robert Saleh, Mike McDaniel and Matt LaFleur. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule turned down the opportunity to interview with the Browns.

Cleveland’s next head coach may need to make a greater commitment to analytics, with Cabot adding that Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta is planning to incorporate more analytical concepts into the team’s game plans. This blueprint did not appear to be a hit with Dorsey or Freddie Kitchens, with a source informing Cabot it only complicated matters further for an “in over his head” Kitchens.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.