The Cleveland Browns fired Hue Jackson during the 2018 campaign after a tenure of two-and-half seasons that resulted in only three victories for the club.
Jackson presided over a winless season in the 2017 campaign, becoming only the second team in NFL history to fail to win a match in a 16-game term. The Browns previously finished 1-15 in the 2016 season, although the head coach was given the benefit of the doubt in his first year.
However, the pressure was on at the start of 2018 for results. Although, the Browns recorded wins over the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens, their struggles despite boasting a talented roster resulted in the firing of Jackson, who ended his tenure with 3-36-1 record.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was placed in interim charge, while Jackson joined the staff of the club’s AFC North rivals – the Cincinnati Bengals. Cleveland found their form under Williams, ending the season on a high note with a 7-8-1 record – just outside the playoff places.
The Browns’ hierarchy will have regretted their decision to have not have fired Jackson sooner otherwise they may have been a dark horse in the AFC playoff picture. What once was deemed a poisoned chalice is now the most attractive job opening in the NFL due to the performances of quarterback Baker Mayfield along with a talented defense.
We’ll now break down the leading candidates for the role and our pick to be the Browns’ next head coach.
Kitchens enjoyed a meteoric rise last season with the Browns. At the start of the campaign he was the running backs coach, but due to the fallout between Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the 44-year-old was promoted to replace the latter. Kitchens had served as a position coach in the NFL since the 2006 campaign and had been part of the Arizona Cardinals staff that reached the Super Bowl in 2008 and the NFC Championship Game in 2015. He has experience in the NFL, although not at the top of the totem pole in coaching.
However, the trend in the league at the moment has been for offensive-minded coaches to be given the nod for the top jobs to get the best out of young quarterbacks. Sean McVay has performed brilliantly at the Los Angeles Rams, while Matt Nagy did just as well in his first term with the Chicago Bears.
Kitchens and Mayfield worked extremely well together as the 23-year-old broke the rookie record for most touchdowns thrown. He improved significantly under the tenure of Kitchens and it’s a bond that Cleveland’s hierarchy should not be willing to break. Continuity will be vital for the Browns and Mayfield therefore hiring Kitchens in the role could be the route to success. Back him at odds of +135 with Bookmaker to become the top man in Cleveland.
Williams was installed as the interim head coach to replace Jackson following his dismissal. The 60-year-old performed well in his duties, leading the Browns to a 5-3 record under his tenure. Williams managed to unite the locker room especially in his side’s games against the Bengals.
Cleveland upped the ante against their former coach on Cincinnati’s staff to record two comfortable victories home and away. Williams’ defense has been hit and miss in his two seasons in Cleveland. When they’re good they’re very good, although when the unit they’re bad they can be awful. Due to the Browns’ struggles they’ve been presented with a great deal of talent in the early stages of the Draft. Williams has been able to utilise those players on his defense.
They did give up yards, being ranked 30th in the NFL in total defense and 21st in points allowed. Those rankings do not instil a great deal of confidence in his coaching, although Williams did overall control was solid enough. The bountygate scandal could be the defining issue.
Williams was suspended by the NFL for a year after it emerged that he employed a payment system for his players at the New Orleans Saints to knock opposing players out of matches. It remains a stain on his career six years removed from the incident and could be the reason why his odds are long ones at +900 at Bookmaker to be names the Browns’ permanent head coach.
McCarthy is the leading external candidate for the position. He was fired during the regular season by the Green Bay Packers due to their struggles in the NFC North. McCarthy had guided his team to the playoffs in 10 of his 12 previous terms in charge of the club, including their triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
The Packers’ form deteriorated over the last few seasons, becoming over reliant on the arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Their offense had become stagnant and in need of new ideas. The relationship between Rodgers and McCarthy had reportedly broken down, leading to the firing of the 55-year-old.
Despite the issues he had at Green Bay, McCarthy still has a great deal of pedigree. His sides’ were consistent under his tenure, winning the NFC North crown six times in 13 years. He successfully managed the transition between Brett Favre and Rodgers – judging the timing of the decision to perfection.
McCarthy can command a locker room and has a Super Bowl ring to prove his worth. Whether he is the right man for Cleveland at the moment is another matter. He may be better suited elsewhere, although he could still be worth a shout at odds of +416 with Bookmaker.
Eberflus is the outsider for the role, but his stock continues to grow. He was hired as the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive coordinator last season by Josh McDaniels, who then reneged on his deal. Frank Reich kept Eberflus in place and they have reaped the rewards. Indianapolis’ defense is getting better by the week and put forward a brilliant performance in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs. It allowed their side to advance to the next phase by limiting the Houston Texans to only seven points.
The Colts’ defense had been a physically weak unit in the past that was often bullied by their opponents. Eberflus has turned the defense around and has got the best out of limited players. It’s only his first year as a defensive coordinator and there’s plenty of room for growth. The problem with hiring Eberflus would be the risk of losing Kitchens and the development of Mayfield. Eberflus is a fine defensive coach, but he may not be suited to Cleveland’s needs at the moment. It could still be worth a punt at odds of +1066 at Bookmaker.
Freddie Kitchens To Be Cleveland Browns Head Coach 2019 Season Week One