In case you’re keeping score, here is the Browns’ coaching staff scorecard under new head coach Freddie Kitchens . . .
Set in stone: Offensive coordinator Todd Monken; defensive coordinator Steve Wilks; special teams coordinator Mike Priefer; quarterbacks coach Ryan Lindley; offensive line coach/associate head coach James Campen; assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko; wide receivers coach Adam Henry; tight ends coach John Lilly; running backs coach/run game coordinator Stump Mitchell; special assistant to the head coach Jody Wright; Jim Dray and Tyler Tettleton, offensive quality control; secondary coach DeWayne Walker; defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi; secondary/pass game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr.; linebackers coach/run game coordinator Al Holcomb; assistant defensive line coach John Parrella; senior defensive assistant Chris Jones;. strength and conditioning director Larry Jackson; strength and conditioning assistants Evan Marcus, Monty Gibson, John Christovich and Dale Jones.
They comprise the major portion of the staff with holes that need to be filled by a defensive quality control coach; an assistant secondary coach; and an assistant special teams coach. That potentially brings the coaching staff to an unwieldy 26, not including Kitchens.
Henry and Lindley, who both were signed this past season, and Walker, who arrived in 2017, are the only coaches to survive the massive purge of last season’s staff.
Henry joined Hue Jackson’s staff after stints with San Francisco and New York with the Giants. Lindley, a quarterback by trade, joined as running backs coach last Halloween, when Kitchens was elevated to offensive coordinator following the firings of Jackson and Todd Haley.
Three of the new coaches bring head coaching experience to the job: Wilks in the National Football League (last season in Arizona); Monken (Southern Mississippi) and Mitchell (Morgan State and Southern) in the college ranks.
Wilks is easily the most controversial appointment, mostly because he suffered the fate of a few Browns head coaches of the recent past. Gone after just one season.
The new defensive coordinator took a job with the Cardinals that was doomed almost from the start, winding up with just three victories (only one at home). He inherited a bad football team. Bruce Arians, his predecessor, knew it, too, and got out of Dodge just in time.
Wilks, working with little or no help from the front office, opened up the season with a washed-up quarterback in Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen, who took over for the ineffective Bradford in week four. He threw more interceptions than touchdown passes last season.
Mike McCoy, Wilks’ equally ineffective offensive coordinator whose offense was hampered by a lack of quality receivers and an offensive line that couldn’t stay healthy, was fired midway through the season.
Defensively, Wilks unwisely brought a 4-3 scheme to a team whose roster makeup screamed 3-4 on that side of the football and paid the price, surrendering 425 points.
Many Browns fans see all that and think hiring Wilks is a big mistake. Why go after a loser? That’s being as little short-sighted.
Can’t argue the fact he failed as a head coach. But he has a decent reputation as a position coach and defensive coordinator. His strong work in Carolina with the Panthers in 2017 (seventh overall, third against the run) helped land the gig in Arizona.
Most coaches are not cut out to be head coaches. Wilks, based solely on one season, is one of them. He is a lieutenant, not a general.
The 4-3 scheme that failed in Arizona will not fail in with the Browns from a personnel standpoint. The only possible negative? Wilks is a proponent of the zone defense, which requires much more discipline, whereas Gregg Williams was a man-to-man disciple.
But Wilks loves to blitz. Surprisingly, his Cardinals blitzed more often last season than the Browns, which should please fans who love aggressive football.
It will be interesting to see how creative he is with his pass coverages. Williams was a master of mixing and disguising his coverages in an effort to confuse opposing quarterbacks.
Wilks brought along Holcomb, his defensive coordinator with the Cardinals, as his secondary coach. He will also be the run game coordinator. That’s another problem. The Cardinals were last in the NFL at stopping the run last season. The Browns were 28th.
Monken is a terrific fit for Kitchens, who will call all the plays on offense. He is a pass-heavy advocate, which should also fit nicely into Baker Mayfield’s wheelhouse in the NFL, which has become pass centric in the last several years.
Mitchell will be in charge of the run game, pairing with Monken and presumably Kitchens to craft game plans. With talents like Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, an improved set of receivers and a better-than-average line, the Cleveland offense should have few problems duplicating the second half of last season.
One of Kitchens’ main jobs will be to oversee the entire coaching staff and make certain everybody lands on the same page. He has never before been in a position before to delegate authority, another primary function of his job. Most successful head coaches coach their coaches, then rely on those coaches to coach the players.
All in all, it will be a vast learning experience for the new head coach, who will add sharpening all-important in-game decisions to his list of priorities. His learning curve will be severely tested, but he appears to have assembled quality people – what he calls his support staff – ready and able to help.