Throughout the Browns’ search for a new head coach, ClevelandBrowns.com will break down the candidates after their interview with the team is complete. It continues today with a look at Freddie Kitchens, who guided the Browns’ offense to a strong finish in 2018.
1. When Kitchens took over as the Browns’ offensive coordinator, Cleveland’s potency on that side of the ball had hit a bit of a wall. After scoring 42 points in a Week 4 loss to the Raiders, the Browns posted 12, 14, 23 and 18 points, respectively, in the games leading up to the dismissal of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Under Kitchens’ watch, the Browns offense improved in nearly every facet en route to posting a 5-3 record in the second half of the season. Cleveland surrendered just five sacks during the second half of the season -- by far the lowest of any team in the league -- compared to 33 in the first half. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,254 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions compared to a mark of 58/1,471/8/6 in the first half. Rookie Nick Chubb averaged 84.75 rushing yards per game and eight different receivers caught a touchdown pass. The Browns turned nearly every red zone trip into a touchdown under Kitchens.
2. Kitchens’ offense used the same terminology as Haley’s but provided a number of different looks throughout the second half of the season. Against the Falcons, the Browns broke out a Wishbone-type formation that featured all three of the team’s running backs. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry attempted multiple passes and Mayfield pitched the ball to himself before tossing a touchdown pass in Cleveland’s regular season finale. Asked if he was coaching with “nothing to lose,” Kitchens disagreed. “I am a week-to-week kind of guy. I call the game, the offensive staff prepares for the game and the players prepare to win the game on a week-to-week basis, even a day to day basis,” Kitchens said. “That is the way that I approach every call I make. It is not necessarily to win the game with that call, but you are either setting something or to be successful. You do not call plays to be unsuccessful. I do not care. I am calling the play to win that game.”
3. Kitchens worked closely with Carson Palmer in Arizona during some of his most productive seasons. Palmer set the Cardinals record for passing yards (4,671), touchdown passes (35) and passer rating (104.6) during Kitchens’ stretch as quarterbacks coach from 2013-16. In 2015, the Cardinals had the top-ranked offense in the NFL for the first time in team history and set numerous single-season team records including points (489), touchdowns (59), touchdown passes (35), total net yards (6,533) and first downs (373).
4. Kitchens experienced a health scare in 2013 he now cites as a life-changing experience. Kitchens underwent emergency heart surgery to repair a defective aorta after experiencing dizziness and light-headed feelings. He returned to work a little more than a month later. “I always felt like I lived life every day like it could be your last, but what an incident like that makes you realize and thankful for are the friends that you have,” Kitchens told the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram in November. “You find out how many people truly care about you and how many people you’ve impacted and didn’t even really realize it.”
5. Kitchens was a star quarterback during his high school days, winning Alabama’s “Mr. Football” award after his senior season, and went on to start for three seasons at the University of Alabama. He finished his collegiate career ranked third in school history in career attempts, fourth in career passing yards and fifth in career completions. One of his biggest highlights came in the 1996 Iron Bowl against Auburn, when Kitchens threw a touchdown pass that turned out to be the game-winner in a 24-23 victory. The comeback ultimately sent off longtime Alabama coach Gene Stallings, who retired shortly thereafter, a winner.