The Browns didn’t have to go far to find their new coach. Freddie Kitchens was already in the building.
The 44-year-old Kitchens, who had a dazzling eight-week run as the team’s interim offensive coordinator, is finalizing a contract to become Cleveland’s ninth coach since the franchise’s 1999 rebirth, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Also, Gregg Williams, who went 5-3 as Cleveland’s interim coach and defensive coordinator this season, is no longer with the team, the person said. Williams was the first candidate to interview for the coaching vacancy.
Kitchens has no previous head coaching experience, but his work with Cleveland’s offense — most notably quarterback Baker Mayfield — in the season’s second half vaulted him ahead of the other six candidates interviewed by the Browns, who were looking for the right coach to lead them following a stunning turnaround season.
It’s a spectacular rise for Kitchens, who began the season as the team’s running backs coach. He took over the Browns offense when coordinator Todd Haley was fired an hour after coach Hue Jackson’s dismissal on Oct. 29 and Kitchens quickly showed he had coaching chops.
Kitchens and Williams kept their players focused and motivated following the mid-season coaching change and the Browns went 7-8-1 following an 0-16 season in 2017 under Jackson.
As the team’s success grew, Kitchens never campaigned to be Cleveland’s coach but leading a team was always a goal. “Definitely. No doubt,” he said. “I heard the other day somebody say something about I wasn’t ready to be a head coach. I mean, who the hell’s ready to be a head coach? You have a resume that you check off the list and everything?”
Fangio named new coach of Broncos
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway has decided on Chicago Bears defensive co-ordinator Vic Fangio as his new head coach, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t announced the hiring.
Fangio is a first-time head coach at age 60.
He replaces Vance Joseph, who posted the franchise’s first back-to-back losing seasons since 1971-72 and was fired on New Year’s Eve with an 11-21 record.
Fangio has been an NFL assistant for 32 years and for 34 years overall, including two years in the old USFL.
Elway also interviewed former Colts coach Chuck Pagano, Steelers O-line coach Mike Munchak, Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores and Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor while searching for his fourth head coach in six seasons.
Elway, who turns 59 this summer, and Fangio, who turns 61 in August, will make up one of the oldest coach-GM duos in the NFL in 2019.
Fangio has 19 years of co-ordinating experience for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers and Bears. He’s built dominant defences in different eras, successfully adapting to changes in personnel, philosophies and style.
The 2018 season was his best as Fangio guided a defence that ranked No. 1 in the NFL, allowed a league-low 17.7 points per game and led the Bears into the playoffs for the first time in eight years.