While Browns general manager John Dorsey was fired in large part due to the failures of head coach Freddie Kitchens during his one year at the helm, he was hardly alone in championing the hiring of the novice head coach.
Dorsey was an immediate backer of Kitchens for the job, believing his work with then-rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield and his initial success calling the offensive plays portended big things for Cleveland in 2019, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Kitchens was the preferred candidate through the process, and an early favorite, and had strong backing from the Haslam family as well.
There were six people most directly involved with the hiring process a year ago, with the Browns myriad coaching searches often playing out in different shapes, but always with owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam choosing the candidate they felt most strongly about. Last year that couple, and their son-in-law, JW Johnson, led the search along with Dorsey, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta – a mainstay in the coaching searches – and then-executive Andrew Berry.
That six-person party was involved in all of the interviews and when the interviews were complete, each had a voice in “voting” essentially for the candidate of their choosing, sources said. In the end, only DePodesta and Berry tallied a dissenting vote when it came down to the finalists, with Kitchens prevailing by a 4-2 margin. Dorsey made it clear he believe he could forge an immediate strong working relationship with Kitchens, who had largely been a position coach prior to his quick rise with the Browns after Hue Jackson was fired in-season, but the Haslam’s voting as a block for Kitchens is what carried the day over the votes of any of their individual employees.
DePodesta again spearheaded the Browns coaching search this month, and a year ago he and Berry, who departed for the Eagles in the offseason, championed Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, as previously reported. Stefanski took part in the interview process again in 2020.