Only one team made it out of the AFC North in 2018, that being the Baltimore Ravens, but so far every team in the division has let at least one significant coach go. No team has had a bigger movement in terms of coach swapping so far, however, than the Cleveland Browns, who are almost entirely rebuilding their staff from the ground up.
After making the decision to go with interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens as their next head coach, they are reportedly landing Steve Wilks and Todd Monken as the team’s next defensive and offensive coordinators, respectively.
Wilks, who just flamed out in one season with the Arizona Cardinals as head coach, going 3-13 largely behind a struggling rookie in Josh Rosen, was a successful defensive coordinator in 2017 with the Carolina Panthers, which got his name on the head coaching circuit in the first place.
As for Monken, he has helped to orchestrate one of the most prolific passing offenses over the past three years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes may have thrown for over 5000 yards on their own this season, it was the Buccaneers who led the league in passing offense, averaging 320 yards per game with the combination of Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Monken will take over for Kitchens, who replaced Todd Haley in the middle of the year in his first season as the Browns’ offensive coordinator. The offense improved significantly over the second half of the season, and Kitchens and company are hoping that Monken will be able to work with their young talent.
That talent is led by Baker Mayfield at quarterback, who was by far the most successful of his rookie class in 2018. He broke the NFL’s rookie record for the most touchdown passes thrown. The wide receiver group is led by Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway, but likely will be supplemented in the offseason.
Gregg Williams was the Browns’ defensive coordinator for the past couple of seasons and served as interim head coach for the second half of the year. While he helped lead the team to a 5-3 second half, it’s obvious that the management believed Kitchens deserved the bulk of the credit. Williams not only was passed over for head coach, he was also fired as defensive coordinator.
Wilks will inherit a defense with a lot of talent that has a lot to prove, consisting of a young nucleus featuring Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, and Denzel Ward, among others. It will be his task to get all of them to not only play up to their potential, but to play as a cohesive unit that measures up to the talent they possess individually.