Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from news of the Browns naming Freddie Kitchens head coach …
From here to there: For nearly seven years, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has sought the right “alignment” in his organization to turn the franchise into a winner. That meant having the right people in the right roles, staying in their lanes.
In the span of 398 days, he may have finally found it.
The right alignment is a triangle of trust between general manager, coach and quarterback. Here is how Haslam assembled it.
1. Dec. 7, 2017: Haslam names John Dorsey general manager.
2. April 26, 2018: Dorsey selects quarterback Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick.
3. Jan. 9, 2019: Browns choose Freddie Kitchens as head coach.
Everything in the 258 days from No. 2 to No. 3 happened organically.
Dorsey’s plan was for Mayfield to sit and learn most of his rookie year. That didn’t happen. Mayfield was pressed into action in Game 3, and never gave up the job.
Haslam’s plan was for coach Hue Jackson to turn into a winning coach in his third year. That didn’t happen. Jackson was fired after the eighth game because of “internal discord” with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who also was fired. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was named interim coach and running backs coach Kitchens was named coordinator because he was most familiar with the Haley offense in place.
Dorsey’s plan for his first coaching hire certainly didn’t include Kitchens from the start. But Kitchens was so impressive in connecting with Mayfield and operating a creative, aggressive offense that he completed a meteoric rise and became the logical choice to fill out the triangle. He beat out Minnesota Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who returned to the Vikings.
So it’s Dorsey, Kitchens and Mayfield combining forces to take the Browns into their new era.
In another era, it was Ernie Accorsi, Marty Schottenheimer and Bernie Kosar.
It only takes three people to turn a franchise around – GM, coach, quarterback. Now they’re in place.
More aligning: Haslam had to make one correction to improve his organization, and apparently he has done it. According to Charles Robinson of YahooSports, Kitchens will report directly to Dorsey – not Haslam.
This is the proper alignment, especially considering Kitchens’ inexperience as a head coach.
Ever since Haslam blew up the Joe Banner organization, his coaches have reported directly to ownership. That set-up invariably resulted in creating a fissure between GM and coach that inevitably widened. Each had private access to the owner, and they would use it to blame the other for whatever inadequacies they encountered.
Now, Dorsey can effectively supervise Kitchens and manage the coach without interference from ownership. This is the first time Dorsey has had that authority. In Kansas City, Dorsey had the GM title, but coach Andy Reid had final say on virtually everything, including, ultimately, Dorsey’s fate.
Work to do: By the end of the day, Kitchens and the Browns had cleaned out most of the Hue Jackson coaching staff. Among the casualties were interim coach Gregg Williams, linebackers coach Blake Williams, special teams coordinator Amos Jones, offensive line coach Bob Wylie, and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.
Notable coaches retained were wide receivers coach Adam Henry and running backs coach Ryan Lindley. Lindley is expected to be named quarterbacks coach, or could even be given the title of offensive coordinator and groomed in that role without play-calling duties.
Kitchens’ crucial hires now will be at defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and offensive line.
Looking ahead: The Browns have five teams on their 2019 schedule that will have new coaches, and three of them have been filled.
An unexpected drama was set up when the Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury as their coach. Kingsbury was the Texas Tech coach when Mayfield won the starting quarterback job as a walk-on, only to lose it after suffering an MCL sprain.
Mayfield said Kingsbury ignored him after his injury. Kingsbury eventually said he had no scholarship available for Mayfield even though Mayfield had a 5-0 record before the injury. Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma as a walk-on and went on to a Heisman-winning career in three seasons.
So that game will be interesting.
The Browns also play the New York Jets, who hired fired Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase to replace fired Todd Bowles; and the Denver Broncos, who replaced Vance Joseph with Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and paired him up with unretired Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator.
Two other Browns opponents in 2019 have not finalized their coaching changes – the Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals.