The Cleveland Browns, Freddie Kitchens, and the Bleak History of Teams Promoting From Within

By Jason Lisk
Freddie Kitchensreportedly in strong considerationCleveland is reporting that Kitchens

History, though, isn’t kind to “continuity” hires, where someone already on staff is promoted to the head coaching position after a change the next offseason. Excluding cases where an interim coach was made the permanent coach (as would be the case if Gregg Williams were retained), there have been 25 cases of a team promoting someone already on staff to head coach since 1990. Here they are:

That’s a pretty ugly list. The average tenure is 2.5 years, and 14 of the 25 lasted two years or less. The most successful on this list was Mike Martz or Jim Caldwell, who both took teams with recent Super Bowl experience to a return trip. The longest lasting tenures belong to Martz, Dave Wannstedt, Rich Kotite, and David Shula. Not sure having Kotite and Shula near the top is a great thing.

Now, many of these situations aren’t really like Cleveland, where they’ve gone through a decade of misery. Many were the guy that followed the guy and tried to keep a good thing going. Many stepped in behind famous and successful coaches. For Cleveland, though, winning five games over the last half of the season feels like winning the Super Bowl after the ineptitude of the Hue Jackson era.

If we just look at recent changes where a team opted to promote the offensive coordinator, you have Ben McAdoo and Dirk Koetter. You’ve got the Raiders letting Tom Cable go after the first non-losing season in eight years, to promote Hue Jackson. And then a little further back, you have the Raiders promoting Bill Callahan after Jon Gruden left for Tampa Bay (which worked for one season, almost, before turning to disaster) and Martz being promoted when Dick Vermeil stepped aside.

While going with the guy who helped make things work seems like a safe play, it hasn’t necessarily been a great move for most teams in the past. And one thing we can take from this is that the leash is going to be short if the guy already there on staff doesn’t make things work quickly. I’d expect something similar in Cleveland. Either it is going to work brilliantly right away, or the Browns will be looking for another coach soon and not want to waste more seasons.