Freddie Kitchens has a vision for the Browns.
It includes the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
The Browns made official the hiring of Kitchens on Saturday as the 17th full-time coach in team history, the ninth since it returned in 1999. The decision was made Wednesday and the deal finalized Saturday.
“It’s an honor to be named the head coach of the Cleveland Browns,” Kitchens said in the news release. He’ll be officially introduced at a news conference Monday at noon at FirstEnergy Stadium. “As I’ve said before, I think Cleveland and I get along pretty well. My family and I have really enjoyed our time with this organization and in this community over the last year.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and responsibility Dee and Jimmy Haslam have granted me. John Dorsey led a thorough search process and I was excited about having the opportunity to come in and talk about my vision for the future of this football team. There are a lot of great people in this front office that I’m excited to continue to work alongside with a singular focus on winning. I’ve been to one Super Bowl that didn’t end the way I wanted it to and that disappointing memory is what really drives me. Our goal is to work extremely hard to earn the right to raise that Lombardi Trophy for our fans and this city.”
“I’m your new head coach, Freddie Kitchens. Let’s roll.” 😂 pic.twitter.com/ZmZn76KCUZ
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 12, 2019
Kitchens, 44, spent the final eight games of the season as offensive coordinator after being promoted from associate head coach/running backs coach when coach Hue Jackson and coordinator Todd Haley were fired. The offense and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield took off under Kitchens and the Browns finished the season with five wins over the last seven games.
“We had a deliberate and thorough process and one thing became evident — that Freddie is the best person to lead the Cleveland Browns,” general manager John Dorsey said. “We saw firsthand what Freddie is able to do. He showed that he is consistent on a day in and day out basis and that he is a true leader. He helped unify our players in a tough time.
“He raised the bar for our offense last year, and I have no doubt he is going to raise the bar for our entire team.”
Kitchens was the seventh candidate to formally interview and beat out finalist Kevin Stefanski, the interim offensive coordinator for the Vikings.
Kitchens was an NFL assistant for 12 years, coaching tight ends, quarterbacks and running backs with the Cowboys and Cardinals, before joining the Browns last January. He also spent seven years as a college assistant.
He’s never been a head coach, and hadn’t been a coordinator until October.
“We are thrilled to announce Freddie Kitchens as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns,” owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said. “He did an outstanding job in his role as coordinator, and we know that will continue as he steps into the role of head coach.
“Freddie demonstrated all of the qualities that you want in someone who is leading your organization. He has unquestioned leadership. He is a man of integrity. He fosters a collaborative environment. He gets the most out of his players and our players loved playing for him. We are happy to have him leading the Cleveland Browns going forward.”
Kitchens is the fourth coach hired by the Haslams since they bought the team for $1 billion in 2012. Rob Chudzinski went 4-12 in his lone year, Mike Pettine 10-22 in two years and Jackson 3-39-1 in 2½ years.
Kitchens’ stunning rise to coach wouldn’t have happened without the success as coordinator.
The Browns averaged 21.1 points in the eight games with Haley calling plays and 23.8 under Kitchens. After the change in Week 9, according to ESPN, the Browns led the NFL in yards per play (6.86), tied for the top spot in yards per pass attempt (8.72), ranked fourth in yards (395.1) and passing yards (285.9) and 14th in scoring.
In his six games before the coaching changes, Mayfield completed 58.3 percent with 1,471 yards, eight touchdowns, six interceptions, 20 sacks and a 78.9 passer rating. In eight games under Kitchens, he improved to 68.4 percent, 2,253 yards, 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions, a league-low five sacks and a 106.2 rating.
“It was great working with and learning from Freddie last year,” Mayfield said. “He has such a creative mind. He creates mismatches and just put guys in position to take advantage of their opportunities.
“He trusts in us as players. He’s the same guy every day. I’m really excited about 2019 and the future of the Cleveland Browns.”
Rookie Nick Chubb averaged 84.75 rushing yards and eight receivers caught a touchdown pass in the final eight games.
“I’m excited about the opportunity that he has,” receiver Jarvis Landry said of Kitchens. “I think this is the direction. We can build on all of the things that we did well last year.”
Kitchens is a native of Gadsden, Ala. He won Alabama’s Mr. Football award after his senior season, then started at quarterback for three years at the University of Alabama. He left the Crimson Tide ranked third in school history in attempts, fourth in passing yards and fifth in completions.
Kitchens and his wife, Ginger, have two daughters, Bennett and Camden.