Browns' 8 best coaching candidates to replace fired Freddie Kitchens

Sporting News

The Browns fired Freddie Kitchens on Sunday night after a disastrous, 6-10 season in which the preseason hype did not match the record on the field. Kitchens was Cleveland's ninth different head coach since the franchise returned in 1999, and the next coach will inherit a talented roster that includes Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and Myles Garrett.

That coach will be expected to get this team back to the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season.

MORE: Browns fire Kitchens after 6-10 season

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Here is a list of the best replacement options.

Browns coaching candidates: The best bets

  • Mike McCarthy

This assumes general manager John Dorsey and a front office staff filled with former Green Bay personnel stays on. McCarthy took a season off after being fired by the Packers last year. He has 125 career wins, which ranks 30th all time among NFL coaches, and the well-documented relationship with Aaron Rodgers overshadows the success McCarthy enjoyed in Green Bay.

Remember, Rodgers was a first-time starter with McCarthy, who could be the right voice for Mayfield.

  • Ron Rivera

UPDATE: The Redskins announced they have hired Rivera as their head coach.

The Browns were an undisciplined team in 2019, much like the one Rivera inherited in Carolina when he arrived in 2011. Rivera, with the help of franchise quarterback Cam Newton, took the Panthers to four playoff appearances and a Super Bowl. He did that by walking the line between disciplinarian and player’s coach.

Rivera played on the 1985 Bears team, too, and his defenses reflected that. Carolina finished in the top 10 in total defense five times during his tenure as coach.

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Urban-Meyer-081818-FTR.jpg
  • Urban Meyer

If Meyer is going to make the jump to the NFL, then why not stay close to home to do it? Meyer would galvanize a fan base heavy with Ohio State crossover fans. He has a strong voice and should be able to hire a staff that would get the most out of Mayfield.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Meyer have a good relationship. This is a risky hire, but it’s one that would have more of a leash than Kitchens had.

NFL assistants to watch for Browns

  • Josh McDaniels

We know what McDaniels did to the Colts and that there's a good chance he takes over for Bill Belichick in New England. The Barberton, Ohio, native has been mentioned in Browns coaching searches in the past, too, and it has never materialized.

McDaniels is a good fit for the talent on offense, but can the Browns trust him to take the job?

  • Greg Roman

Roman worked wonders with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and is doing it again in Baltimore with Lamar Jackson, a quarterback the Browns have watched take over the division.

Roman could bring that much-needed creativity to the Cleveland offense while at the same time leaving a division rival. That's a win-win for the Browns, but it might be tough to pull off.

  • Robert Saleh

Saleh’s rise began as a quality control coach for Pete Carroll in Seattle, and he has continued that progression as the defensive coordinator for San Francisco the last three seasons. Saleh’s high-energy sideline demeanor is a hit with the cameras, but there’s substance where that comes from.

San Francisco was the “it” team in the NFL in 2018 before breaking out in 2019. Saleh is ready to be a first-time head coach, and he would have a defensive line to build around in Cleveland.

College coaches to watch for Browns

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Lincoln-Riley-120519-getty-ftr
  • Lincoln Riley

The Mayfield tie is obvious, and Riley has led three College Football Playoff runs at Oklahoma. If Riley does want the NFL, then why not go with a quarterback he knows? That offensive scheme can work in the pros, and Mayfield might regain his rookie form with his old coach.

Then again, Mayfield played a role in retaining Kitchens. Is this the message the Browns want to send?

  • Matt Rhule

We would put Brian Kelly or Jim Harbaugh here, but we think those two will stay put as well-known coaches in the college game. Rhule, however, makes for an interesting candidate because of his track record at Temple and Baylor.

He develops NFL talent well and showed he can manage a rebuild with Baylor. This would be a longshot given the other candidates on the board, but it’s a name that might get tossed around if some of those big names fall through.

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