Freddie Kitchens

Coaching Rumors: Rizzi, Dennison, Browns

Darren Rizzi interviewed for the Dolphins coaching job that is likely to go to Brian Flores, but the special teams coordinator is a coveted commodity around the league. The Packers are set to interview him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Miami wants to retain Rizzi, who has been with the team throughout the 2010s, but has given him permission to seek employment elsewhere. That may soon prompt an extensive interview circuit. Five teams are interested in bringing him aboard, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Vikings look to be one of those. Rizzi, 48, has only coached for one NFL franchise. His pre-Dolphins gigs were college jobs in the northeast, including a one-season stay (2008) as Rhode Island’s head coach.

As week three of many teams’ offseason begins, here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Todd Monken‘s rise to Buccaneers play-caller earned him interest in teams’ OC jobs. He ended up landing with the Browns, but the other recent play-caller on this staff will call Cleveland’s plays next season. Freddie Kitchens will be the game-day director for the Browns’ offense next season, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). This won’t be too new for Monken, who spent the first two seasons as Bucs OC watching Dirk Koetter call plays.
  • The Vikings announced Klint Kubiak (quarterbacks coach) and Brian Pariani (tight ends) are following Gary Kubiak to Minnesota, with the latter’s official title being assistant head coach/offensive advisor. Expected to be part of the Gary Kubiak gang getting back together up north, Rick Dennison was not included in this announcement. But Mike Klis of 9News notes the former Broncos and Bills OC is indeed believed to be part of the next Vikings staff (Twitter link). When Kubiak agreed to reprise his longtime role as Broncos OC, he wanted Dennison to oversee the team’s offensive line concepts, per Klis. The Broncos’ pursuit of Mike Munchak overruled this, and Dennison — the Jets’ O-line coach in 2018 — could be set to have a role in aiding the Vikings’ blockers next season.
  • Speaking of Munchak, the Broncos went beyond their usual offensive line coach budget to bring him over from Pittsburgh, Klis notes (on Twitter). Munchak, who has coached for just two franchises (the Oilers/Titans and Steelers), has family in the area.
  • The Steelers promoted Shaun Sarrett to replace Munchak as their O-line coach, the team announced. Sarrett had previously served as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. He has been with the Steelers for seven seasons, helping instruct their offensive linemen for most of that time.
  • After the Steelers let running backs coach James Saxon go, he will move to Arizona. The Cardinals are hiring Saxon to coach their running backs, Aditi Kinkabwala of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). He will replace Kirby Wilson and attempt to revive Arizona’s No. 32-ranked ground game. Saxon has 19 years’ experience coaching running backs in the NFL — the past five with the Steelers, where he oversaw Le’Veon Bell‘s rise and James Conner and Jaylen Samuels‘ quality replacement efforts — and should help rookie NFL coach Kliff Kingsbury.
  • Kris Kocurek will move from south Florida to the Bay Area, shifting from the Dolphins’ defensive line coach to the same role with the 49ers, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM tweets. Kocurek, 40, was the Lions’ D-line coach for nine seasons prior to moving to Miami.

AFC Coaching Notes: Bengals, Browns, Broncos

When the Rams’ postseason run comes to a close, the Bengals are expected to offer quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor their head coaching position. With the expected move, Cincinnati cleaned house on Friday, dismissing the previous staff of Marvin Lewis, including offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, ESPN’s Katherine Terrell writes. Among the other assistants let go include running backs coach Kyle Caskey and tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes.

This move, of course, is not unexpected. Most head coaches will bring in their own guys and Taylor — or whoever ends up with the job — is no exception.

A longtime NFL assistant, Lazor began his tenure with the Falcons as an offensive quality control coach in 2003 before moving to the Redskins as an offensive assistant in 2004. After a handful of other jobs, including a stint in the college ranks with Virginia, Lazor landed the offensive coordinator role with the Dolphins in 2014. After serving there two seasons, he joined the Bengals as quarterbacks coach in 2016 and was promoted to offensive coordinator the following season. In two seasons running the show in Cincinnati, Lazor ranked in the bottom 10 in yards and bottom half in points both seasons.

Here’s more from the AFC’s coaching carousel:

  • Sticking in the AFC North, Browns new head coach Freddie Kitchens cleaned house after getting the job. Once person he didn’t let go, however, was Ryan Lindley, who will serve as his quarterbacks coach next season, AZCardinals.com’s Mike Jurecki tweets. Lindley, who played in the NFL from 2012-15 as a quarterback, served as the Browns running backs coach in 2018.
  • Also with the Browns, the team added former Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer as its special teams coordinator, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero [Twitter link]. Priefer filled the same role in Minnesota from 2011-18, but declined to re-sign with the team after his contract expired after this past season. Priefer was born in Cleveland and coached two seasons at nearby Youngstown State in the 1990s.
  • New Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is bringing back special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, News9 in Denver’s Mike Klis tweets. McMahon concluded his 12th season in the NFL this past season, his first as special teams coordinator with the Broncos. He previously held the same position with the Colts, Chiefs and Rams.

Latest On Browns, Freddie Kitchens

The Browns’ chain of command has been muddled in the past, but the team’s new structure appears to be pretty straight forward. New head coach Freddie Kitchens will report directly to GM John Dorsey and not to owner Jimmy Haslam, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). 

Meanwhile, Kitchens will “retool [the] staff,” Robinson says, so he’ll likely have the freedom to choose the coaches that he wants. That includes the offensive side of the staff, which is Kitchens’ specialty.

Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski had support to be the head coaching hire, Robinson hears, but the consensus was ultimately Kitchens. Multiple executives were in the room hashing things out, but the hire ultimately was made by Haslam and Dorsey.

The Browns did not ask Baker Mayfield for his suggestion, but they did listen to his thoughts on Kitchens, Robinson writes. Naturally, Mayfield was a big proponent of Kitchens, who helped get the offense back on track in the second half of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns To Hire Freddie Kitchens As HC

The Browns decided to stay in-house. Or, more accurately, in the kitchen. On Wednesday afternoon, the Browns will formally announce the promotion of offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens to the head coaching position, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: PFR’s 2019 Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Kitchens proved his value after an in-season promotion gave him the keys to the Browns’ offense. Under Kitchen’s tutelage, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield thrived and became a legitimate contender for the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The Browns closed the season 5-3 with Kitchens donning the headset and it appears that he is being given more credit for the turnaround than interim head coach Gregg Williams.

Early on, the Browns were connected to some big-name coaching candidates such as former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Browns did not seriously pursue either coach, choosing instead to talk with Williams, Jim Caldwell, Dan CampbellMatt Eberflus, Brian FloresMike MunchakNick Sirianni, and Kevin Stefanski.

Stefanski, the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, was believed to be a finalist alongside Kitchens. Ultimately, he lost out, which means that Brad Childress is probably not on his way back to Cleveland after all.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ HC Job

As they advance to the finalist stage of their coaching search, the Browns appear to be zeroing in on young play-callers.

Kevin Stefanski is headed back to Cleveland for a second interview, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (on Twitter). The coach who took over the Vikings’ play-calling responsibilities late in the season may be competing with Freddie Kitchens, who ascended to this role in Cleveland.

Kitchens now has a “good chance” of landing the Browns’ HC job, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The Browns interviewed Kitchens on Monday and have been making calls to inquire about his coaching past, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

These are the two finalists for the position, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. As Stefanski heads back to Cleveland, Kitchens remains in the Browns’ building.

While the Browns are eyeing Stefanski for their HC job, he remains a leading candidate to stay on with the Vikings as OC, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. However, Stefanski is a coaching free agent after his contract recently expired.

Several Browns assistants have already been asked to stay on board, Cabot reports, which would back the idea the 44-year-old Kitchens will receive a major promotion. Neither Kitchens nor Stefanski had OC experience heading into 2018. The Browns appear to be serious about pairing Baker Mayfield with a young, offensively oriented leader.

Stefanski, 36, interviewed for the Browns’ HC vacancy on Jan. 3. He is the youngest candidate involved in the John Dorsey-led search. This comes after he was passed over for the Vikings’ OC job a year ago for former Browns OC John DeFilippo. But Minnesota fired the latter late this season, and Stefanski is competing with Kitchens and perhaps others for the Cleveland job.

The Browns blocked Kitchens from pursuing offensive coordinator jobs outside the organization. It looks like he has a real shot to continue to work with Mayfield, which is not necessarily a big surprise given the rookie passer’s success after the Browns fired Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. Kitchens receiving the HC job may point to Gregg Williams staying on, though it would be an altered dynamic given the 60-year-old interim leader’s previous role as Kitchens’ boss.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Vikings, Browns, Dolphins, Jets

Right after the biggest coaching news of the cycle dropped with the Packers’ hiring of Matt Lafleur, we have a fresh batch of coaching rumors ready.

One of the most prominent coordinator openings is the Vikings’ offensive coordinator position. The team fired John DeFilippo midseason, and promoted Kevin Stefanski to that role. Although many initially thought Stefanski would be back in Minnesota, he is “unlikely to return”, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), who notes the team is “looking for depth of experience.” Robinson writes that former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey is a candidate for the job, and he thinks recently fired Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter is a candidate as well.

Koetter is indeed a candidate for the job, confirms Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune. A source told Goessling that Koetter is a strong candidate for the job. Interestingly both Koetter and Mularkey have interviewed for the Falcons’ OC job in recent days. Koetter was Atlanta’s playcaller before landing the job in Tampa Bay. Robinson writes that Koetter has been “presumed across the league to be a lock for the Falcons OC job”, but that Minnesota is “in play” for him as well.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Mike McCarthy has been linked to the Browns job ever since he was fired by Green Bay, but things appear to be cooling off between the two sides. Cleveland “talked with either Mike McCarthy or his reps today, but things are on hold for now while the Browns talk to other candidates”, sources told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. While it sounds like the Browns have put McCarthy on the back-burner, Demovsky notes he is still “very much in play for the Jets.”
  • Speaking of the Browns, the team completed their interview with interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens today, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. It’s unclear if Kitchens has a real shot at landing the head coaching job, as the back half of this season was his only experience even calling plays after he was promoted from quarterbacks coach, but he received a ton of praise for his work for Baker Mayfield. If he doesn’t get the job it’s highly possible he’s retained as OC by whoever takes over in Cleveland.
  • Pittsburgh’s offensive line coach Mike Munchak has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to leave the Steelers, and a source told Aditi Kinkhabwala of ESPN.com that he turned down an interview request from the Dolphins (Twitter link). Munchak has been very selective over who he’ll talk to in recent years, and it seems like the only way he’ll be on the move this cycle is if he lands the Broncos’ job. Recent reports have him as the “early favorite” for that gig.
  • We heard yesterday that the Jets were looking to set something up with Baylor coach Matt Rhule, and that meeting has apparently already taken place. The Jets “have discussed their head coaching vacancy” with Rhule, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Rhule has been buzzed about in NFL circles in recent years, as he’s done a great job turning around the programs at Temple and Baylor. He was considered for the Colts’ opening last year, but ended up removing his name from consideration.
  • The Dolphins were originally supposed to interview their special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi for their head coaching vacancy today, but the interview has been rescheduled for later in the week, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Rizzi is an outside the box candidate, but numerous former and current Dolphins players have lobbied for him to receive consideration. So far the Dolphins have interviewed Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, and Cowboys’ defensive playcaller Kris Richard in their search to replace Adam Gase. Whoever gets the job in Miami will likely have a new quarterback under center, as the team is expected

Latest On Browns, Freddie Kitchens

The Browns are slated to talk to offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens on Monday or Tuesday about their head coaching vacancy, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. The interview is more than just due diligence – Rapoport hears that Kitchens has a realistic chance at securing the job. 

Multiple teams have expressed interest in Kitchens as an offensive coordinator candidate, but the Browns have so far denied those requests. That’s an indication that the Browns see Kitchens as a real candidate for the top job. At the very least, the Browns believe they’ll want to keep him in the fold going forward, though an outside big name head coaching hire may want to pick his own OC.

Kitchens never called plays before Hue Jackson and Todd Haley got the boot, but quarterback Baker Mayfield soared under his tutelage once he got the headset. The Browns were reinvigorated with Kitchens and interim head coach Gregg Williams running the show and managed to finish the second half 5-3.

As shown in PFR’s Head Coaching Tracker, Kitchens is going up against several candidates who have a leg up when it comes to experience:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Block Freddie Kitchens From OC Interviews

Freddie Kitchens‘ in-season promotion turned out to be a key move for the Browns, with Baker Mayfield‘s rookie year gaining steam under Cleveland’s rookie offensive coordinator. The Browns appear to be interested in keeping that setup intact.

Other teams have reached out about Kitchens OC interviews, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) the Browns have blocked those. Since Kitchens remains under contract, the team is permitted to do so. The Browns want their new head coach to have the opportunity to keep Kitchens on as full-time OC, per Rapsheet. Additionally, Kitchens himself will interview for Cleveland’s top job early next week.

While this could end up being disadvantageous for Kitchens, since it’s uncertain if the new Cleveland HC has Kitchens in his plans, it shows the Browns are serious about continuing the Kitchens-Mayfield setup. Prior to the ousters of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, Kitchens had not called plays before. Mayfield thrived, becoming a legit Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner, once the change occurred. The Browns closed the season 5-3 under Gregg Williams.

Williams already interviewed for the Browns’ HC job, and John Dorsey said a Kitchens meeting for this vacancy was on tap. Though, the second-year GM did not say when that would commence. The Browns may be eyeing Kitchens for a promotion to full-time OC rather than their next head coach. Kitchens, 44, spent 11 seasons as a Cardinals position coach prior to joining the Browns’ staff in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ Coaching Search

A flurry of head coaching moves have been made last night and this morning, but one team already had a significant head start on the process. The Browns were the first team to move on from their coach, firing Hue Jackson after eight games, and have had a while to formulate a plan. The team went 5-3 after moving on from Jackson, and might have the most attractive opening of any team with Baker Mayfield looking like a star in the making.

The Browns’ first step in the process will be to interview Gregg Williams tomorrow, GM John Dorsey revealed at a press conference this morning, per Pat McManamon of ESPN (Twitter link). Williams is the interim coach right now and although he isn’t expected to land the full time job, Cleveland’s strong play down the stretch certainly earned him consideration. Dorsey also said that offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, who has drawn rave reviews for his work with Mayfield, will get an interview although he wasn’t sure when that would occur.

Meanwhile, the Browns have also requested to interview Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link). Flores is in his first year calling plays, but is highly regarded around the league and was a candidate for the Cardinals’ job last year. The Browns are also expected to interview former Titans head coach and current Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, according to Alex Marvez of Sporting News (Twitter link). We heard earlier this morning that the Broncos have interest in Munchak as well, who’s earned a ton of praise for his work with the Steelers and is instrumental in Pittsburgh and far more influential than your average offensive line coach.

We first heard late last night that the Browns had reached out to Mike McCarthy, and while he wouldn’t confirm anything, Dorsey certainly didn’t throw cold water on the rumors. Dorsey said he has “a lot of respect for Mike McCarthy and what he’s done”, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Dorsey also praised Kitchens, saying the first time coordinator has “done [a] wonderful job developing [a] relationship with” Mayfield, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal (Twitter link).

As soon as Adam Gase was fired by the Dolphins, he was immediately linked to Cleveland. Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald tweets that Gase going to the Browns is a “very real possibility”, and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network followed up with a tweet saying Peyton Manning, a very close friend of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, is a “big fan” of Gase. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk tweeted that Haslam “aggressively pursued” Gase five years ago, “but Gase decided to wait to become a head coach.”

The Browns have also put in a request to interview Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Campbell has been a popular darkhorse candidate for some jobs, and impressed during his brief stint as the Dolphins’ interim head coach in 2015. In addition to Campbell, Rapoport tweets they requested an interview with Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

Two last candidates for the Browns are Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, as Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets that the Browns have submitted an interview request for him, and Colts offensive Nick Sirianni is also on their interview list Pelissero tweets separately. Adam Schefter followed up on Pelissero’s report by tweeting that while the Browns do want to interview Eberflus, they won’t be able to this week with the Colts playing a playoff game this weekend, and the same presumably goes for Sirianni.

Cleveland will be one of the most buzzed about teams in the coming days and weeks, and we should know a lot more about their intentions soon, and they’re clearly casting a very wide net. At this point, it still seems most likely that they’ll pursue an offensive coach to pair with Mayfield despite their reported interest in Flores and Eberflus.

AFC Notes: Browns, Ravens, Broncos, Jets

Few names have been hotter in coaching circles recently than Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, who was promoted to the role with Cleveland in Week 9 and has helped the squad since go 5-2. It should come as no surprise the Browns are interested in Kitchens returning to the role in 2019, but his name is starting to make the rounds in head-coaching rumors.

Any team wishing to tab Kitchens as an offensive coordinator is out of luck, as Cleveland can refuse any interview for the job. While some team might come sniffing for the innovative offensive mind, the Browns could make the move for Kitchens as their head coach according to ESPN’s Tony Grossi.

Grossi writes, “Like the Los Angeles Rams did with Sean McVay two years ago, the Browns could reasonably conclude that if Kitchens is on the fast track to be an NFL head coach, then it would be better to move him into that office a year too soon rather than lose him to somebody willing to take that gamble.”

Due to the team’s turnaround, interim head coach Gregg Williams is sure to get a long look for the position as well.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Ravens are expected to lost national scout Milt Hendrickson to a front-office role with the Packers, Jeff Zribiec of The Athletic writes. In the 2018 offseason, the Packers were denied by the Ravens in attempting to make the move. He served with the team since 2005. Hendrickson is good friends with Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and lives in Wisconsin.
  • With the Broncos recording their second consecutive losing season for the first time since 1972, many expect John Elway to make big changes in the upcoming season. A few of those players expected to potentially be looking for a new job include Shane Ray, Su’a Cravens and Brandon Marshall, The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala writes. Though Marshall has two years remaining on his deal, none of that money is guaranteed and the team could move on from the veteran in favor of rookie Josey Jewell.
  • At 4-11, the Jets have plenty of areas to address in the upcoming offseason. The four biggest needs, however, include receiver, pass rusher, running back and offensive line, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY writes. Not surprisingly, three of those four needs revolve around giving first-year quarterback Sam Darnold some help on the offensive end. In addressing the running back situation, Vacchiano speculates the Jets could make a serious run at Le’Veon Bell with the team’s ample cap space.