One of the most notable coaching moves of the day was the Browns promoting Freddie Kitchens from offensive coordinator to head coach. This was a huge decision for Cleveland as Kitchens started the season merely as the team’s running back coach. After taking over as the team’s offensive play-caller in Week 9, the Browns offense played significantly better. In Weeks 1-8 the Browns ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ passing success rate and 27th in rushing success rate. From Week 9 on, they ranked 5th in passing success rate and 7th in rushing success rate. Baker Mayfield improved as well with his completion percentage increasing by a whopping 12% and he averaged 8.57 yards per attempt. Reports are that Mayfield had a huge say in the coaching selection and was actually Facetimed into interviews at certain points. Mayfield’s undeniable chemistry with Kitchens and the offense’s immediate turn-around surely had an impact on the Brown’s final decision to promote Kitchens to head coach.
His promotion meant the firing of interim HC and former DC Gregg Williams. Despite carrying a negative reputation among many analysts, Williams played his part in helping turn the Browns season around by winning five of their last eight games. He will likely resurface as a coordinator somewhere quickly.
Jets hire Adam Gase as head coach
The Jets had multiple candidates including standout offensive mind Todd Monken. Instead of giving someone new a shot at head coach, the Jets sided with former Dolphins HC Adam Gase. Peyton Manning reportedly put in a good word for Gase and helped reassure the Jets front office about him. Gase ended his tenure in Miami with a 23-25 record over three seasons including a 10-6 record in his first year. Despite being criticized for not utilizing his most explosive offensive players frequently enough, his team didn’t underperform relative to the overall talent level.
Gase has decided to bring along Dowell Loggains as offensive coordinator for the Jets. Loggains has been an offensive coordinator during four seasons in his coaching career and never ranked higher than 15th in yards or 19th in points.
Broncos hire Vic Fangio as head coach
The Broncos were between Fangio and Steelers OL coach Mike Munchak for their vacant head coaching position. The decision to go with Fangio could revitalize their defense in 2019 as the defensive-minded coach has a long history of excellence. He has been a defensive coordinator for 19 years in the NFL but is finally getting his first head coaching gig. Something that stuck out to me about Fangio was his ability to turn the Bears defense around immediately in 2015. In 2014 they ranked 31st in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed. Even though the defense still lacked playmakers at nearly all positions, Fangio helped elevate the team to 20th in points allowed and 14th in yards allowed. While this doesn’t seem all that impressive, most were predicting the Bears to be a historically bad defense entering that season.
With a strong defensive mind at head coach, the Broncos decided to slot Gary Kubiak in as offensive coordinator. Even with Kubiak on board, it won’t be easy to spark the Case Keenum-led Broncos offense.
Kyler Murray Enters Draft
This is an interesting situation as Murray has already been drafted and signed by Major League Baseball’s Athletics. Murray seems to be re-thinking his decision to play baseball after winning the Heisman trophy in 2019 with electric play-making ability. The Athletic’s Draft Analyst Dane Brugler said his “early guess” is that Murray will be a top-50 selection. This could skyrocket if Murray decides to commit to Football rather than baseball by foregoing when he is supposed to report with the A’s in late February. Despite his small stature (5’10/195) Brugler thinks there is a “legitimate chance” Murray would be a first-round selection. With some NFL teams willing to take more risks on players that don’t fit their old-school, stereotypical mold and a weak 2019 quarterback draft class on the horizon, I believe Murray could end up being one of the first quarterbacks off the board this April.
Coaching Quick Hits
Vikings pin Kevin Stefanski as OC. Stefanski will remain with the Vikings after taking over OC duties Week 15. He will likely continue his run-heavy approach in 2019. …Bucs hired ex-Jets coach Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator. Bowles’ is still a good defensive mind and will try to turn around what was one of 2018’s worst units. … Coach Bruce Arians said on Wednesday that OC Byron Leftwich will call the Bucs’ offensive plays. This will be different than the past where Arians called plays as head coach of the Cardinals. He likely trusts Leftwich after working with him in Arizona. …Ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy will not coach in 2019. McCarthy was only interested in the Jets job but the feeling obviously wasn’t mutual. He’ll likely resurface as a dark-horse HC candidate for some neolithic NFL franchise in 2020. … NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports ex-Broncos coach Vance Joseph is a “strong possibility” to serve as new Jets coach Adam Gase‘s defensive coordinator. After flaming out in Denver, Joseph would add to an already uninspiring day of hires for the Jets.
Blake Jarwin (ankle) remained sidelined at Wednesday’s practice. This isn’t a good sign for his availability and his status is in serious question for Saturday’s game against the Rams. … Impending free agent Thomas Davis said he has been informed by the Panthers that he will not be re-signed, but that he intends to continue his playing career. Davis is a shell of his former shelf but will likely wind up as a role player on another team. … Todd Gurley (knee) was limited at Wednesday’s practice. He has had plenty of time to rest after sitting out the last two regular season games and the bye week. Even with the extended break, he might not be at 100 percent against the Cowboys this weekend. … T.Y. Hilton (ankle) remained sidelined at Wednesday’s practice. This has been his normal routine the past few weeks. He will be good to go against the Chiefs this weekend. … Eric Ebron (hip) returned to a limited practice on Wednesday. He’s hardly practiced throughout the week but hasn’t missed any games lately. He should be good to go. … Alshon Jeffery (ribs) was reported as limited at Wednesday’s practice but this is just a guess since the Eagles didn’t practice on Wednesday. He should be able to play against the Saints. … Chris Herndon pleaded guilty to DWI on Wednesday stemming from a June accident. It could have ended up much worse as he caused a multi-car accident and no one suffered more than a minor injury. He will surely face a suspension in 2019.
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