Freddie Kitchens

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.

Browns Fire Freddie Kitchens

The Freddie Kitchens era in Cleveland is over after just one season. The Browns fired their rookie head coach Sunday, according to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Browns are now officially the third team to can their head coach, and more will be coming shortly.

Kitchens’ firing represents an epic rise and fall, as he rose from a little known position coach to be the head man in Cleveland. He started last year as the Browns’ running backs coach, then took over as offensive coordinator after Todd Haley was fired. Baker Mayfield had a lot of success during the second half of 2018 for which Kitchens received a ton of credit, and GM John Dorsey gave him the full-time job to succeed Hue Jackson after the season.

The Kitchens era started off with a lot of fanfare. Cleveland had an eventful offseason, completing a blockbuster trade for Odell Beckham Jr., and there was an absurd amount of hype surrounding the team. Expectations got so high that it would’ve been hard for anyone to deliver, but Kitchens’ tenure was still a disaster by any standard. Things got off to a terrible start with a blowout loss to the Titans in their opener, and they never recovered.

Mayfield regressed considerably, and Beckham was never able to get fully integrated into the offense. There were a number of incidents that created the perception that Kitchens had lost control of the team, like Myles Garrett‘s indefinite suspension or Beckham reportedly telling other teams to ‘come get him.’

It had been widely reported that Kitchens was on the hot seat, and an embarrassing loss to the Bengals in Week 17 seemed to seal his fate. It still came as a surprise to him though, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets that an “emotional” Kitchens told him on the phone that he “believed he had organizational support.”

Kitchens was in a meeting with owner Jimmy Haslam and Dorsey, a source told Josina Anderson of ESPN.com, which would seem to indicate Dorsey is safe despite some recent speculation to the contrary. Dorsey later issued a statement through the Browns on Twitter, confirming he isn’t going anywhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

HC/GM Rumors: Gase, Lynn, Panthers, Shurmur

Black Monday is tomorrow, so let’s take a look at the latest coaching and GM rumors from around the league:

  • This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given that neither man was really believed to be on the hot seat, but Jets HC Adam Gase and Chargers HC Anthony Lynn will both be back in 2020, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (h/t NFL Update on Twitter).
  • We learned yesterday that the Panthers would seek to interview Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, which David Newton of ESPN.com confirmed today. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report believes Rhule would leave Baylor if the right opportunity presented itself, despite signing a lengthy extension with the school back in September (Twitter link).
  • Despite speculation that the Panthers could look to move on from GM Marty Hurney, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic says owner Dave Tepper remains intent on keeping Hurney, and Hurney wants to stay (Twitter link). Tepper does want to bring in an assistant GM, and Joe Person of The Athletic offers a list of potential candidates. The problem, as NFL insider Adam Caplan observes, is that Carolina could be blocked from interviewing candidates under contract with other teams unless the Panthers’ gig comes with decision-making responsibilities (Twitter link).
  • We heard earlier today that the Browns are doing their due diligence on HC candidates, which isn’t a good sign for Freddie Kitchens. As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets, the team wanted to see modest progress from Kitchens this year, which is why a loss to the Bengals on Sunday afternoon could seal his fate. But for all his faults, Kitchens remains well-liked in the building, so he’s not a goner just yet. We also heard today that Browns GM John Dorsey may be on the hot seat.
  • Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reiterates yesterday’s report that Ron Rivera is high on the Redskins‘ wish list, and that Rivera could have a new job as soon as tomorrow (video link). However, other clubs also want a crack at Rivera. One of those clubs, the Cowboys, will almost certainly move on from Jason Garrett if they are eliminated from playoff contention today, and Rapoport names Rhule, Lincoln Riley, and Rivera as names to watch for Dallas’ expected vacancy.
  • In the same report, RapSheet says Giants ownership is split on head coach Pat Shurmur, with Steve Tisch wanting to move on and John Mara not quite convinced. A win over the Eagles today could save Shurmur’s job.
  • Dan Graziano of ESPN.com confirms (via Twitter) that former Texans GM Rick Smith is definitely a name to watch if the Redskins move on from Bruce Allen, which they are expected to do. Graziano says it’s still unclear as to whether Smith wants to return to a front office, contrary to a report from last month, but if he is, Redskins owner Dan Snyder will be interested. Mark Maske of the Washington Post hears that Smith, who lost his wife to cancer 11 months ago, is not quite ready to return to football (Twitter link).

Browns Researching HC Candidates

The Browns have been researching head coaching candidates, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter). La Canfora says Cleveland is doing its due diligence on possible replacements for first-year HC Freddie Kitchens, who may be given his walking papers after Sunday’s season finale.

Obviously, it would not be surprising to see Kitchens fired. The Browns have underachieved all season, they have looked undisciplined and sloppy, and Kitchens looks ill-equipped to handle a locker room full of talented but headstrong players. Kitchens has not helped himself either, as his words and actions have occasionally suggested that he is in over his head.

Just two weeks ago, we heard that Cleveland was planning to keep Kitchens around for 2020 and to give him a chance to right the ship. Since then, however, the Browns suffered a bad loss to the Cardinals — which included more infighting — and after keeping the Ravens in check for most of the first half last Sunday, they imploded in the final two minutes of the second quarter and ultimately lost 31-15.

The loss to Baltimore was a capsule of the Browns’ season. They played well for a stretch but ultimately unraveled when adversity struck, and Kitchens’ questionable decision-making helped key the Ravens’ comeback.

Given the talent on the roster, the Browns may be able to woo a high-profile head coaching candidate, and they are at least reviewing all of their options. A loss, or even an ugly win, against the 1-14 Bengals on Sunday afternoon could trigger Kitchens’ ouster.

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