For many NFL observers, it was a surprise when the Cleveland Browns chose Freddie Kitchens as their new head coach.
Before the Browns fired Hue Jackson last season, Kitchens had never risen above position coach in the NFL. But in a matter of months he went from offensive coordinator to head coach.
Over the weekend, one of the men he worked with in Cleveland took swipes at him, and on Monday Kitchens swiped back.
‘Kenny Zampese did all the coaching’
Bob Wylie, a longtime offensive line coach in the NFL, CFL and college ranks who was with the Browns for 2017-18 — and one of the undisputed stars of “Hard Knocks” last season — was on CBS Sports Radio over the weekend and said he was shocked when Kitchens was hired as head coach.
Wylie indicated that Kitchens’ relationship with Baker Mayfield played a role in the Browns’ decision. And that’s not all he said.
“Baker likes Freddie. There’s a good relationship there even though [former Browns quarterbacks coach] Kenny Zampese did all the coaching there. Baker likes Freddie, so that had to [factor] into the decision.
“Freddie didn’t have any coordinator experience or head coaching experience.”
Wylie believes Gregg Williams, who was defensive coordinator when the season started but was named interim head coach after Jackson was fired, didn’t get the job because general manager John Dorsey didn’t want him despite how Cleveland played once Jackson was gone.
“That shocked me because Gregg Williams turned the team around. In the second half of the season, that’s his work that got it to where it is,” Wylie said of the Browns’ 5-3 finish. “My own personal feeling is Gregg was too strong a candidate for the seat. I don’t think Dorsey wanted to go head-to-head with Gregg like he had to do with Andy Reid in Kansas City, so he kind of filtered Gregg out of the picture and he kept the search going.”
The only offensive assistant Jackson hired that is still with Cleveland is receivers coach Adam Henry, who coached Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. at LSU, and also coached Beckham with the New York Giants.
Wylie said he and other assistants who weren’t brought back were left in the cold by Kitchens.
It was like “thanks you guys, you guys did a great job. Thanks for helping me get the interview ... But I’m going to take this job and you guys are going to become collateral damage, that’s what will happen,” Wylie said.
Wylie left the Browns in late December because of a serious knee and ankle injury that led to him spending four months in a rehabilitation hospital; he said he found out he wouldn’t be returning to the team from his daughter, and that the team emptied his office and put his things in storage while he was in the hospital.
‘Bob knows what happened’
On Monday, Kitchens seemed bothered by Wylie’s remarks.
“I would say this, I know Bob Wylie to be a good person and out of respect to his family, I won’t get into any of that because he’s a father, he’s a husband, he’s a granddad,” he said, via Cleveland.com. “But I would just say this about that whole situation. Bob knows what happened. Bob knows what was going on, and when he was here, he knew everything about it, you know?”
Kitchens said he isn’t angered by the remarks, but believes that the players deserve recognition for the Browns’ turnaround in 2018.
“Did they have anything to do with the turnaround? Because I really, truly feel that this game is about the players,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s not about Bob. It’s not about the staff. Our job is to get them ready to play. It’s about them.
"But when do they get their credit? Because they had to make a conscious decision to turn it around, and they did that. So I would say that about the comments.”
To put a fine point on it, Kitchens noted that since Wylie is not longer with the Browns, his words don’t hold weight.
“It doesn’t matter. Bob doesn’t wear brown and orange anymore. I had the opportunity to hire Bob. I didn’t want to,” Kitchens said. “I went to the hospital to see Bob every week he was in the hospital. All right? I FaceTimed Bob before every game before we went out as a staff just so he would continue to feel a part of it. So at what point does Bob realize that it was the players and not the coaches that turned it around? Now that’s the last thing I’ll say about it.”
Kitchens doesn’t want staff leaking to media
Kitchens added that he won’t tolerate “leaks” from inside the organization, assistant coaches who share information with media.
“The days of inside information and the days of unnamed sources and stuff like that have ended,” he said. “So you’re not going to get any information like that ever. Anybody. And if I ever see it, they’re fired — immediately. That’s the way we’re running this organization and I can take it. John Dorsey can take it. We won’t crack, I promise you. So any other questions?”
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