Browns fire Freddie Kitchens after one embarrassing season as Cleveland's coach

NFL Browns

When the Browns lost to the Steelers at the beginning of the month, we figured Freddie Kitchens had four games left in the 2019 season to prove he was the right coach for Cleveland in 2020 and beyond.

He failed.

On Sunday night, after the Browns lost their season finale against the Bengals to end the year with a 6-10 record, Kitchens was fired after just one season as coach in Cleveland. The 45-year-old became just the second coach in franchise history (Rob Chudzinski in 2013) to be fired after one year. Sunday’s embarrassing loss in Cincinnati evidently was the last straw.

MORE: Browns’ best candidates to replace Kitchens

“We thank Freddie for his hard work and commitment to this organization but did not see the success or opportunities for improvement to move forward with him as our head coach,” team owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. “Our focus is on hiring an exceptional leader for this football team and we will take a comprehensive approach to this process. We are excited about the core players we have to build around and develop and we look forward to bringing in a strong head coach that will put this group of players in the best position to succeed.”

Added Browns general manager John Dorsey: “I would like to thank Freddie for his dedication and efforts this past season. We are disappointed in our results and feel a change is necessary. Freddie is a good man and good football coach. We wish he and his family nothing but success.”

Kitchens’ firing is the product of two related factors. One was the level of sudden expectations with which the Browns entered the 2019 season, and the other was Kitchens’ apparent inability to manage a talent-stuffed roster in a way that would deliver the desired results. As we noted earlier this month, the coach was getting in the way of a team still trying to learn how to wear the label of playoff contender.

When Kitchens was promoted from Browns interim offensive coordinator to head coach in January, the hiring seemed logical given his positive working relationship with quarterback Baker Mayfield. Even when Dorsey stuffed the roster with new talent in the form of Odell Beckham Jr., Kareem Hunt, Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson, giving the Browns the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl among AFC teams behind the Patriots and Chiefs, Kitchens held his own, seemingly managing these newfound expectations with ease.

Then came the turbulence.

Beckham didn’t show up for minicamp. Duke Johnson asked to be traded and eventually was granted his wish despite Kitchens’ reluctance. Through the media, members of the Browns’ staff were warned by Kitchens not to leak info as unidentified sources. Antonio Callaway was suspended. Cleveland lost to Denver when the Broncos started QB Brandon Allen, who had never taken a regular-season NFL snap.

Then came the Browns-Steelers brawl. Kitchens said he was embarrassed by Myles Garrett’s swinging a helmet at and hitting Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph in the head, an act that got the defensive end suspended for the rest of the season. A few weeks later, Kitchens wore a T-shirt with the words “Pittsburgh started it” printed across the chest — a reference to the brawl before the teams’ rematch in Pittsburgh.

After the Browns lost that game, Kitchens said his shirt wasn’t a factor. Steelers players disagreed. “I know that our coach never would have done anything like that,” Pittsburgh guard Ramon Foster said.

These are just a handful of moments that defined a disastrous season for Cleveland. The majority of their wounds were self-inflicted, hence Kitchens’ firing.

The Browns now will search for the 22nd coach in franchise history. With the exception of Gregg Williams, who served in an interim role in 2018, no Cleveland coach has managed an overall record of .500 or better since Marty Schottenheimer (.620) in 1984-88. A Browns coach has not led the team to the playoffs since 2002, when Butch Davis’ team fell in the wild-card round to the Steelers.

Barring an extreme roster turnover in 2020, the next coach will be working against expectations similar to those that cost Kitchens his job. Of course, based on what we know now about these Browns, at least they won’t be considered a Super Bowl 55 contender.

Including Kitchens and his final stats, below is the Browns’ full coaching history.

CoachStartEndGamesWinsLossesTiesW-L%Playoff gamesPlayoff winsPlayoff lossesSuper Bowls/championshipsFreddie Kitchens20192019166100.3750000Gregg Williams201820188530.6250000Hue Jackson20162018403361.0880000Mike Pettine201420153210220.3130000Rob Chudzinski20132013164120.2500000Pat Shurmur20112012329230.2810000Eric Mangini200920103210220.3130000Romeo Crennel200520086424400.3750000Terry Robiskie200420045140.2000000Butch Davis200120045924350.4071010Chris Palmer19992000325270.1560000Bill Belichick199119958036440.4502110Jim Shofner199019907160.1430000Bud Carson198919902511131.4602110Marty Schottenheimer198419887144270.6206240Sam Rutigliano197819849747500.4852020Forrest Gregg197519774118230.4390000Dick Modzelewski197719771010.0000000Nick Skorich197119745630242.5542020Blanton Collier1963197011276342.6917341Paul Brown19461962214158488.7671495