Kitchens is one-and-done with the Browns after a disappointing 6-10 season
The turmoil and turnover by the lake continues. Following Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the season finale, the Cleveland Browns pulled the plug on the Freddie Kitchens experience after a one-and-done campaign as head coach. It wasn't just the 6-10 overall record that likely did in the team's former offensive coordinator, but a buildup of mistakes and undisciplined play that sunk a once-promising season from the start.
The question is, who will owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager John Dorsey turn to in their second coaching search in as many seasons? The roster is still filled with talented players but turning around Baker Mayfield and installing some discipline will certainly be a priority in finding the next leader of the franchise.
Who could wind up replacing Kitchens? Here are 10 candidates to watch that could be the next Browns head coach:
The college coaches
Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma head coach
Riley has been connected to the gig seemingly since Baker Mayfield was drafted No. 1 overall. While his Sooners were run off the field in the College Football Playoff the day prior to Kitchens' getting axed, Riley is still one of the best play-callers at any level of football and on everybody's radar in the NFL. The question remains though, will he depart one of the best gigs in the country for what has turned into a coaching graveyard?
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
The Browns may not be able to lure Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma but they might have an eye on another Big 12 coach in Campbell. He's an Ohio native from Massillon and was part of several national titles at powerhouse Mount Union. NFL types have always come away impressed with him over the years and he's found success at two hard-to-win places like Toledo and ISU.
Bob Stoops, former Oklahoma head coach
The Youngstown native is already in the pro game as a semi-retired XFL head coach but could he be tempted by this gig? Even though it's a stretch, call just might be placed. He obviously has a connection to Mayfield but also defensive roots as one of the best on that side of the ball. He could be given wide say in personnel matters and a hefty contract to make things work.
Urban Meyer, former Ohio State head coach
Certainly a dream hire by many in the state, Meyer's track record as perhaps the best modern college head coach not named Nick Saban speaks for itself. His power spread offense has elements already in use in the NFL and he's heavily invested in RPOs dating back to the creation of the concept. His health will certainly be an issue with any return but if he does get back in the game, trying his hand at an Ohio-based NFL team could be worth exploring.
The former NFL head coaches
Ron Rivera, former Panthers head coach
Riverboat Ron isn't planning on sitting out 2020 after being let go by the Panthers and has expressed his desire to join a franchise with a quarterback in place. Well, Cleveland would qualify and he could be the disciplinarian, veteran head coach the organization badly needs. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is another team like Washington moving quickly to lock him up first.
[Editor's note: Rivera was announced as the Redskins' new head coach on New Year's Day.]
Mike McCarthy, former Packers head coach
McCarthy figures to also be an in-demand former head coach (and ones with Super Bowl rings on the market are a rarity in general). He did a great job early on in developing Aaron Rodgers and could do the same with Mayfield. His tenure in Green Bay did get stale at the end but he sounds energized after taking a year off and would do things a bit differently a second time around.
Marvin Lewis, former Bengals head coach
Lewis was a stabilizing force in Cincinnati with some consistently good teams in the regular season. Cleveland wouldn't be in position to criticize his lack of postseason wins given that's uncharted territory for them right now but the respected veteran would certainly be able to assemble a good staff and help the team compete right away. He may not fire up the fan base but significantly raising the floor of the franchise and becoming more competitive would be something he could accomplish quite quickly.
The NFL assistants
Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator
The hottest candidate in the league right now, poaching Roman would double as getting a creative mind while hampering a division rival. Though he doesn't have the head coaching background others do, the Browns might overlook that given how well he's done in numerous stops. He'll come highly regarded by a number of big names and could be the guy that the type of coach they thought they were getting in Kitchens, only much more suited to running the organization well.
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
Another name that will be brought up for nearly every opening, McDaniels ticks off a lot of boxes given he has head coaching experience, an offensive background and the learning under Bill Belichick factor. Though his current Pats unit hasn't lit the league on fire like we're used to seeing, he's still highly regarded and could be great with the weapons the Browns have.
Jim Schwartz, Eagles defensive coordinator
Schwartz is a defensive guy who will be a trendy name for teams who don't want a green head coach and his personality is right in line with Dorsey's. The record he had with the Lions will scare plenty of folks off but he's rehabbed his image with a good run in Buffalo and a title in Philadelphia. His first NFL job was in Cleveland and a return would certainly be full circle.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.