Zac Taylor, Freddie Kitchens get head coach jobs with less than a year as coordinators

AP

The coaching turnover in the NFL this year has shown that teams are putting less emphasis on experience than they have in the past.

In the cases of Zac Taylor, who is expected to be named head coach of the Bengals, and Freddie Kitchens, who has been hired as head coach of the Browns, two coaches have become head coaches without ever being a head coach at any level before, and with less than one year as an NFL coordinator.

Taylor’s only coordinator experience was as an interim offensive coordinator in Miami during the 2015 season, after Joe Philbin was fired as head coach and Dan Campbell became interim head coach. The 35-year-old Taylor also has one year as offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati. A year ago he was promoted from assistant wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach of the Rams. That’s a thin résumé by NFL head coach standards.

But it’s a comparable résumé to that of the 44-year-old Kitchens, whose only experience as a coordinator is the second half of last season with the Browns, after head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired. Kitchens was in his first year as the Browns’ running backs coach when he was promoted, and he’d never been more than a position coach before, at any level.

New Packers head coach Matt LaFleur also has a résumé that looks light by NFL standards. He has been an offensive coordinator for one season for both the Rams and Titans, but only called the offensive plays once, in 2018. The 39-year-old LaFleur has never been a head coach.

And new Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury does have six years of head coaching experience at Texas Tech, but he’s never coached in the NFL at all. At age 39, he also has a résumé that doesn’t look much like the typical career path for an NFL head coach.

What all four of those coaches have in common is that they’re young and they’re regarded as having a good understanding of the quarterback position. That’s what NFL owners increasingly want.

67 responses to “Zac Taylor, Freddie Kitchens get head coach jobs with less than a year as coordinators

  1. What is obvious is teams are trying to hire young head coaches who can relate more to the modern players. I really think that is a big part of all of these hires we’ve seen.

  2. After what Gregg Williams did with the Browns, giving that team the first sign of pulse in years, it is exactly like that organization to cast that aside and start over with a guy that is an absolute novice.

    I give the Kitchens choice (and the Packers, Cardinals and Bengals) an excellent chance to implode before the midpoint of next season.

  3. The Bengals could hire Vince Lombardi and still lose. It all starts at the top. If ownership is a perennial loser, everyone under them with continue to lose. It’s time to start looking in the mirror Mike Brown. I wish Zac Taylor luck… he’ll need it.

  4. Copycat league looks for next Sean McVay as if every young coach is going to be great. But being a head coach is more than dialing up a good play. It is about leading and no doubt several of these young coaches will fail in that regard and the cycle will end.

  5. Redskins Coach Jay Gruden Coaching Tree:

    -> Sean McVay
    -> Zac Taylor

    -> Matt LeFleur

  6. The Browns valued Kitchens’ ingenuity and rapport with Mayfield. Williams did a great job, but he wasn’t the one who was putting Mayfield in the right light to shine. Other teams wanted Kitchens, and if the Browns didn’t promote him, they were going to lose him. He reportedly already said that he and Williams wouldn’t work well if it were made permanent. Williams is a likable guy (if your team is winning), but he isn’t worth losing any momentum with an up an coming QB.

    And as much as Williams was liked when we were winning, lest ye forget, he was in charge of a defense that went 0-16.

  7. I suspect that people are starting to figure out the same sorts of things about coaches as about QBs. That past success or failure often has a disproportional reliance on surrounding cast and circumstance and what really counts is what’s between the ears. For QBs, prototypical size is less important than mental speed, chip on shoulder, mistake recovery, and confidence resilience. For coaches it’s less about past experience as about being able to make something significant out of limited ingredients, quick, dynamic reaction, agreeable, collaborative leadership and overall football vision/philosophy, I’ve wondered for a long time why owners didn’t bring in sports psychologists or fund studies about the most cerebral positions on their teams. If I was a GM looking for a QB or coach, the first thing I’d try to pin down is what matters in their heads.

  8. carloswlassiter says:
    January 11, 2019 at 5:51 am
    After what Gregg Williams did with the Browns, giving that team the first sign of pulse in years, it is exactly like that organization to cast that aside and start over with a guy that is an absolute novice.

    I give the Kitchens choice (and the Packers, Cardinals and Bengals) an excellent chance to implode before the midpoint of next season.

    Browns fan, lifelong. I know it is popular to think that the head coach is the Second Coming, but that isn’t how it works on the vast majority of teams. I would argue that isn’t how it happens on any team. Head Coach is an integrator, a mediator, and the guy who let’s you sit on his couch when you need a moment. He is not necessarily the one who makes it happen except, in that role.

    Williams is no head coach. He is a defensive mind that is not responsible either for the Browns rise in Defense (giving him some credit, but it has been on the rise for a few years) and he certainly did not get Baker Mayfield to where he is now. Freddie did that. And because Mayfield’s success is obvious to that 5-7 run? I am going with Kitchens.

    The game is simple, but not that simple. The same way one player does not a championship make.

  9. I don’t care how talented a guy is, in almost every case he would benefit by being a coordinator for a few years before becoming a HC.
    I don’t think this works out for either guy.

  10. Commenter experts think that they can coach better than any NFL head coach, with the possible exception of BB. Plus, most commenters here are ageists, thus the constant whining about millenials. It makes perfect sense that these people would bash Taylor, Kithens, LaFleur, and Kingsbury. Heck, they still think McVay will fail.

    Lots of envy over younger, smarter people receiving opportunities.

  11. The ridiculousness that can reside in the NFL if these two succeed next year then the 2020 head coach search commences GM’s and owners will also want a 1 year coordinator for their next head coach.

    The NFL doesn’t exactly look for and hire the right people. They hire trends. You see it in the real world too. Absurd.

  12. With all that said, I think that of all of the 1st timers being hired this off season, statistics can probably back up a theory that 50% of these guys will be fired before year 4, and 50% will have llng careers. The chances of Bruce Arians making it thru his contract have to be considerably better odds. Get it? 50/50. Crapshoot, at best, with a Taylor, or a Kitchens. If im running the business, Im looking to bring in better than a 50% proposition for my team.

  13. Yet when Brian Flores of the Patriots name came up (a long NFL resume with one year as the de facto coordinator) folks here said he wasn’t experienced enough. Wonder why?

  14. In the case of Kitchens, as an example. Thats a very young roster there. Now, management CHOSE to add a new coach with no experience. So, management just chose to add greater risk to their equation than bringing in a vetran coach would bring. Is that Kitchens’ fault when he doesnt work out? Moreso…..managements.

  15. viperstournaments says: “The Bengals could hire Vince Lombardi and still lose. It all starts at the top. If ownership is a perennial loser, everyone under them with continue to lose.”
    =======================

    New Orleans Saints were losers (237-352-5 0.399%) for 40 years until they got lucky with the Sean Payton/Drew Brees combo…

  16. Don’t understand the one year love affair with Sean McVay Kyle Shanahan looked great until his QB got hurt. Give me a good QB and I’ll be the hot ticket in town

  17. viperstournaments says:
    Dave Shula was a young inexperienced QB coach turned Head Coach.. How’d that work out for the Bengals?… Not so good.
    >>>
    But Sam Wyche was a young (38 yo) inexperienced QB coach (4 yrs tutoring Joe Montana) … and that worked out much better.

    No one knows which of these young guys will succeed and which will fail.

  18. This article suggests that these decisions were based on resume alone. What hire in any business is made by looking at a piece of paper. The Bengals, and every other team, met with these gentlemen in person for interviews. Taylor was said to be impressive in his interviews. While there’s a greater chance he fails than not, because most NFL coaches fail, you have to trust that the organization hired the best candidate versus the other individuals they interviewed.

  19. The NFL coaching hiring and firing structure is broken and should be changed. Imagine if your company (whatever the business) simply fired all of operations management every few years and hired replacements. How much more time would the staff spend worrying about job security and where their next job will be. Not productive. Combine that with the fact that a head coaching job is very different from a coordinator job and you have a recipe for failure. And the first timers have it worst because they have no track record to facilitate the hiring of a good coaching staff and all the previous staff are gone so transition is more challenging. (Again picture your own place of business if everyone just got up and walked out and were replaced by the new boss’s friends – this is normal).

    A much better approach would be if the team owner/GM/current head coach established an offensive philosophy and a defensive philosophy and had a succession plan for each side of the ball. New England seems to have this as they usually promote from within. Another idea is to have an assistant head coach position for a guy that has been a coordinator for years but needs to learn the ropes of a head coach as opposed to the old coach near retirement that you see now.

    Does anyone think if Belichick were to retire after this season that the Pats would replace 90% of the coaching staff because its only fair that the new guy has the right to bring in “his guys”?

    All of these young dudes are being hired because the owners are trying to catch lightening in a bottle like the Rams did. It’s doomed to fail because Sean McVay is a unicorn. He grew up in a coaching family and started training to be an NFL head coach as a teenager. Bottom line is there has to be a better way.

  20. The Kitchens situation is a little different — the Browns have found their QB, and the relationship with Kitchens was a bit of a revelation. Would Kitchens have that sort of relationship with another QB on another team? No one knows, and I don’t think he’d be a candidate for any other team.

  21. No, we can pretty much surmise who is going to fail. The Bengal guy is probably 99.9% going to fail because like I said when Lewis was getting bashed all those years, most fans have no clue the extra stuff you have to deal with in that organization. These other guys we’ll know pretty quickly from these staffs that they or their teams put together for them. Lost in all of this McVey love is the fact that that team was stacked when he got it, he hired Wade Phillips to be his DC, and even with all that, until it happens, he still hasn’t won a playoff game. It’s like Doug Pederson. He is the only guy standing from his coaching class because he hired Schwartz as his DC and surrounded himself with good coaches. Gase was doomed by Tannehill. The others had poor staffs. So we’ll know with their staff hires. It’s always the answer to if they’re going to work or not.

  22. I can’t recall an offseason with so many “who?” sort of hires. I think 90% of these guys are going to be replaced within 2-3 seasons.

  23. The thing is, the kind of people that say Freddie Kitchens isn’t “ready” to be a head coach are the same kind of people that said Baker Mayfield isn’t “ready” to be an NFL quarterback. You can only learn so much by watching. Kitchens will have his ups and downs, but if teams were worried about his experience level… well, how does one get experience?

  24. Before this season, Kitchens has never been an offensive coordinator or a head coach – at any level. So if he succeeds, he deserves a lot of credit.

  25. goooooobrowns says:
    January 11, 2019 at 7:50 am
    … past success or failure often has a disproportional reliance on surrounding cast and circumstance and what really counts is what’s between the ears. For QBs, prototypical size is less important than mental speed, chip on shoulder, mistake recovery, and confidence resilience. For coaches it’s less about past experience as about being able to make something significant out of limited ingredients, quick, dynamic reaction, agreeable, collaborative leadership and overall football vision/philosophy…
    ————————
    well said, that’s it exactly, my guess is that there are less coaches and QB’s with those qualifications you described.

  26. Kitchens has been in the NFL for a number of years….and has a track record this year of at least short term success……Kliff Kingsbury has zero NFL coaching experience and good hair, that hire is absolutely baffling.

  27. Kitchens was also the Assistant HC for Arians in Arizona and called plays for the Browns after Hue and Haley were let go. So I’m not sure why you said he’s never been more than a position coach until this year. That should differentiate him a great deal from other guys. But while their experience was detailed his was not. He was just listed as a ‘running backs coach’. Weird.

  28. Pretty sure 98% of people have failed as head coach of the Bucs.
    ———————————————-

    Right now it looks like they made the best hire, especially when you consider the staff that Arians has already brought in. Of course, that’s how it looks on paper. Time will tell.

  29. my_old_name_was_offensive says:

    January 11, 2019 at 7:21 am

    Redskins Coach Jay Gruden Coaching Tree:

    -> Sean McVay
    -> Zac Taylor

    -> Matt LeFleur

    _________________

    Actually no, Sean McVay would actually fall under the Mike Shanahan coaching three since he was the one that initially hired McVay to Washington. Also neither Zac Taylor(never was with the Redskins) or Matt Lafleur(left before Gruden became head coach) coached under Jay Gruden.

  30. nyneal says:
    January 11, 2019 at 5:37 am
    What is obvious is teams are trying to hire young head coaches who can relate more to the modern players

    ===========

    Eh, maybe. Coaches have always been older than players, and many of the most successful coaches ever have been *much* older than their players. Conversely, many younger coaches have failed (we’ve just seen a fair bit of that this season). It doesn’t guarantee any success.

    A young coach without preconceived notions can get away with just doing something different for a while, but eventually they have to be able to anticipate, adapt, read the nuances of what they’re seeing, and not just rely on overwhelming the other side with a temporary array of talented players. Experience is probably the #1 factor supporting all those abilities.

    I think at the end of the day it’s like QBs – there just simply aren’t many who have the full package. Young, old, it doesn’t matter, they’re just rare.

  31. Trump’s Tiny Hands says:
    January 11, 2019 at 10:10 am
    The thing is, the kind of people that say Freddie Kitchens isn’t “ready” to be a head coach are the same kind of people that said Baker Mayfield isn’t “ready” to be an NFL quarterback. You can only learn so much by watching. Kitchens will have his ups and downs, but if teams were worried about his experience level… well, how does one get experience?

    ==================

    Well, by being a coordinator for more than 2 months, for starters.

  32. footballpat says:
    January 11, 2019 at 8:51 am
    Don’t understand the one year love affair with Sean McVay Kyle Shanahan looked great until his QB got hurt.

    ==============

    The 49ers continued to “look good” all season, playing hard with close outcomes (including 1-score games to many playoff teams), and did so with unknown backups.

    Once the Rams’ unaffordable roster starts to fall apart, we’ll see what McVay is really all about.

  33. Why Cleveland chose Freddie Kitchens to be HC..

    CLE offense under Freddie Kitchens (all stats since week 9)
    + Led the NFL in yards per play (6.86)
    + Tied for the league lead in yards per pass attempt (8.72)
    + 4th in yards per game (395.1)
    + 4th in passing yards per game (285.9)
    23.75 points per game (14th)

    Baker Mayfield was: QB10 (19 PPG); had a 8.57 YPA (2nd);
    a 69% completion percentage (10th); avg 4.75 deep completions per game (led NFL);
    had 9.13 deep attempts per game (2nd);
    had a 52.1% completion percentage on deep passes (5th)

    Nick Chubb was RB6 (total points); averaged 17.7 PPG (would have been RB8 this season) and had 19.75 touches/game (6th). Under Kitchens, both Duke Johnson & David Njoku saw their red zone usage more than double.

  34. The NFL is so painfully unimaginative. I’m all about hiring young coaches with innovative ideas and offenses, but they should at least have SOME level of experience. They have absolutely no idea WHY McVay and Nagy have been successful, they’re just trying to badly copy and paste another team’s idea. At this point I feel like all you need is a selfie with Sean McVay and teams will be lining up to interview you.

  35. Kingsbury has a job for one reason and he plays QB for the Chiefs. Not saying it’s a good idea, just saying that’s why.

  36. Nagy was successful because of Fangio and the defense he built. If it wasn’t for that, -5 wins.

  37. What happens when McVay gets bounced over the weekend? Is he still a genius? If no, will all the copy cat hires get fired?

  38. All these young HCs will succeed or fail in large part due to who they get as supporting cast. How does a young coach know who the best coordinators are that can help him? I would think the best way to know is by experience in the league which they do not have.

  39. Truthfully, I didn’t care if it was Taylor, Bieniemy, Monken, a dream trade for Mike Zimmer. It doesn’t matter. The Bengals need a reset. Lewis had gone stale. He completely turned the organization around, and that is commendable, but it was past time to go. Bringing back Jackson or Joseph – who were successful coordinators with HC experience, would have kept the Bengals stagnant. Yes, Taylor has a thin resume, but I’d rather have that thin resume and a fresh start than some of the candidates that were out there. I don’t understand Bengals fans who are upset over the reported preference in Taylor.

    What’s the worst that can happen**? They’re hard to watch and don’t make the playoffs? How is that any different from what they just put out on the field? The Eagles hired Chip Kelly with no NFL experience, realized they made a mistake quickly and moved on to Doug Pederson – who was an “offensive coordinator” with a light resume. Super Bowl in year 1.

    **Oh, this is the Bengals? So really, the worst that can happen is Taylor is the second coming of Dave Shula and returns the Bengals to a decade of darkness. The Browns and Bengals have tarnished Paul Brown’s legacy in unspeakable fashion.

  40. It’s hard to find a perfect candidate. Maybe you’d ideally want someone with more experience, but you don’t really want to hire someone who has been fired from previous jobs. Maybe teams have that mindset – that it’s better to take a risk with inexperience than to hire someone who has had failure.

  41. Three theories as to how this played out.
    Ovee the course of their search, the Bengals learned Taylor:

    1. Shared a cab with Sean McVay
    2. Recommended a film to Sean McVay
    3. Once used Sean McVay’s name in a senten e.

    All this used to make sense before McVay received the Order of Knighthood from the Queen and became Sir Sean McVay the First

  42. cheeseisfattening says:
    January 11, 2019 at 9:31 am
    LaFleur is the head coach in name only. The Packer needed someone to hold the title honorarily while Rodgers assume the responsibilities.
    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

    Great! That would certainly be better than paying Lamborghini (Rodgers) prices for a used Chevy (Cousins.)

  43. spunjmunke says:
    January 11, 2019 at 7:47 am
    The Browns valued Kitchens’ ingenuity and rapport with Mayfield. Williams did a great job, but he wasn’t the one who was putting Mayfield in the right light to shine. Other teams wanted Kitchens, and if the Browns didn’t promote him, they were going to lose him. He reportedly already said that he and Williams wouldn’t work well if it were made permanent. Williams is a likable guy (if your team is winning), but he isn’t worth losing any momentum with an up an coming QB.

    And as much as Williams was liked when we were winning, lest ye forget, he was in charge of a defense that went 0-16.
    _______________________

    The same rationelle was used (familiarity with QB and other teams want him) to fire Lovey and replace him with Koetter. How did that work out for the Bucs?

  44. viperstournaments says:
    January 11, 2019 at 6:05 am
    The Bengals could hire Vince Lombardi and still lose. It all starts at the top. If ownership is a perennial loser, everyone under them with continue to lose. It’s time to start looking in the mirror Mike Brown. I wish Zac Taylor luck… he’ll need it.

    ———

    Mike Brown wasn’t the reason Marv was 8-28 against the Steelers. Or similarly terrible in prime-time. Or 0-7 in the playoffs. Mike has a secret GM in Duke Tobin. They’ve been drafting well since that guy took over in 2000. Marv had the players. Carson Palmer. Chad Johnson. Houshmandzadeh. Rudi. Justin Smith. Andy Dalton. AJ Green. Gio Bernard. Joe Mixon. Burfict. Geno Atkins. Carlos Dunlap.

    Marv is a choker. Stop making excuses. The 90’s were a long time ago. Get ready to watch Taylor win. Btw, Mike Brown is 83 years old. He didn’t even run this coaching search. He gave power to his daughter Katie and her husband Troy. Look it up.

  45. den0524 says:
    January 11, 2019 at 11:00 am

    a 69% completion percentage (10th)

    ———

    As someone who has been a stats geek for 25 years or so, the fact that a 69% completion rate ranked 10th is astounding. The NFL has been pushing the rules to promote offense (probably to capture the attention of millennials) and it’s obviously paying off. Offenses took a giant leap in 2018.

  46. Part of this phenomenon is the long/stagnant list of “ex-head coaches.” Owners can only do the lemon dance so long. Once you’ve “failed” at more than one gig, there is a much higher upside to these less experienced coaches.

    Mike Shanahan was rumored to be in play for a second stint in Denver, for cripes sake. “Hey there, 1989!” (This after he was there once already and failed most recently in Washington.)

    How a Ken Wisenhut or Jim Caldwell would ever get a job as HC again is what would be surprising.

    I do think there’s merit to “second chances” for NFL HC’s, but after that…you’re basically committed to failure. (Adam Gase probably learned something in Miami, e.g.)
    Roll the dice.

  47. “After what Gregg Williams did with the Browns, giving that team the first sign of pulse in years, it is exactly like that organization to cast that aside and start over with a guy that is an absolute novice.”
    ___

    Just because Williams was the “HC” he was given a lot of credit. But to me, it seems more like the turnaround and success was more attributed to Hue finally being gone and Kitchens having full control and influence over Baker and the offense. That defense will be fine, they have franchise caliber talents at every level of that D.

    Also, let’s not forget that Williams is an arrogant and delusional guy who has consistently worn out his welcome pretty quickly just about everywhere he’s been.

    Kitchens was just as much behind that turnaround, if not much more so. And the guys who knew these two the best and were closest to the situation apparently felt the same way, since they ultimately chose Freddie over Gregg.

  48. Pretty sure most people expected both the Browns and Bengals to completely botch their hires. While time will tell, it sure appears to be a pair of underwhelming selections with extremely limited track records to back them up.

    From the entire NFL and College coaching pool, these 2 are the best you can come up with to turn your struggling franchises around?!? Two teams who haven’t really be able to get anywhere close to consistent success hand the reigns over to completely off-the-radar choices.

    Don’t be surprised if both of these teams are headed back to the coaching tree to pick some new ones in a few years.

  49. Her is my unsolicited opinion. Greg Williams had the Browns winning and had Mayfield playing pretty darn well, why not make him head coach with a two year contract?

  50. illgivemyopinion says:
    Her is my unsolicited opinion. Greg Williams had the Browns winning and had Mayfield playing pretty darn well, why not make him head coach with a two year contract?

    Because they are the Browns. Oh we are winning? Cant have that.

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