CLEVELAND — Freddie Kitchens didn’t fret when general manager John Dorsey and the search committee loaded the interview schedule with six other names.
In fact, he encouraged it.
“I wanted a thorough search,” Kitchens said Monday. “I really wanted to compete against everybody that wanted this job. I wanted it. I wanted to go in and state my case.”
He walked out the winner.
Kitchens was introduced at FirstEnergy Stadium as the 17th full-time coach in Browns history. He emerged from the crowded field.
“I want everybody to understand that I believe that they made the best decision,” he said. “I believe that they believe that they made the best decision. I find great comfort in knowing that they were together in doing that.”
Dorsey led the search committee that included owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, executive vice president JW Johnson, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, assistant GM Eliot Wolf, vice presidents of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith and Andrew Berry and vice president of football administration Chris Cooper. Dorsey said the decision was unanimous after a deliberate, thorough search.
Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, 36, was the other finalist and the only other candidate to interview twice.
“He was organized, he was detailed, he was collaborative,” Dorsey said of Stefanski. “He had a really nice broad vision. He was a young guy.”
Interim coach Gregg Williams, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell were the others interviewed. Dorsey said the original list of candidates included former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Dorsey explained the decisions not to go with the coaches with more experience and more impressive resumes.
“Gregg is a heckuva coach,” he said. “What we were looking for is the future of the organization.”
Dorsey, Wolf and Highsmith won a Super Bowl with McCarthy in Green Bay, which would’ve made for a natural fit. But McCarthy never officially interviewed, didn’t get the Jets job and will take 2019 off.
“We had really nice discussions about him,” Dorsey said. “But at the end of the day, what was best moving forward? And this is the decision we came up with.”
McDaniels interviewed with the Packers, didn’t get the job and will remain with the Patriots. Last year he agreed to take the Colts head coaching job but backed out at the last minute. Dorsey said that wasn’t an issue.
“Absolutely not,” he said.
Dorsey repeatedly said the decision to hire Kitchens was about the long term but denied Arians’ age played a role.
“Not at all,” he said.
Arians, 66, had publicly lobbied for the Browns job but was hired by the Buccaneers.
The Browns changed the organizational structure with the hiring of Kitchens. Dorsey, DePodesta and former coach Hue Jackson reported directly to ownership, but Kitchens will report to Dorsey.
“There is a belief of a traditional structure model in place and sometimes I think that is best,” Dorsey said. “Freddie and I are going to make an unbelievable amount of decisions together in unison, because we are such likeminded in our thinking. We are going to have daily and weekly conversations with ownership.”
The committee met for nine weeks to identify qualified candidates and narrow the list. Dorsey said it sought leaders of men, guys with integrity and who were secure, open-minded, collaborative in their thinking, intelligent and had good football acumen.
Dorsey acknowledged Kitchens wasn’t on his personal list of candidates when Dorsey replaced Sashi Brown in December 2017 but was included “very early on” in this process. Then he impressed everyone in his eight games as coordinator to end the season.
“What was wonderful is he had a full display of his resume at work there for eight weeks,” Dorsey said. “At the end of the process, unanimously, we all felt that Freddie was the right fit for this organization moving forward.”