It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the league is continuing to shift more and more toward valuing offensive-minded coaches at the head coaching position. This offseason has been the greatest example of that, with I believe only one of the new hires at the head coaching position coming from somebody from a predominantly defensive background in Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins.
The AFC North is following the offensive trend to a T, however, with both the Cleveland Browns naming Freddie Kitchens their head coach and then the Cincinnati Bengals making it official with Zac Taylor as their next leader on the staff.
Kitchens began the 2018 season as the Browns’ running backs coach before being promoted midseason to offensive coordinator after they fired Todd Haley in that spot. Taylor was the quarterbacks coach of the Los Angeles Rams.
And both of them have gone on record stating that they will be calling their own plays. That is, after all, what got Kitchens his job inf the first place, so he might as well continue doing what got him there. This will be the second head coach in a row for Cleveland to be given the leeway to call his own plays after Hue Jackson did the same thing in his first two seasons.
Kitchens didn’t have much prior experience calling plays, and neither does Taylor, who once also served as an interim offensive coordinator several years ago while he was with the Dolphins himself. That was back in 2015, however, and he hasn’t had that direct responsibility since.
But that is in-line with where the league is heading for many teams, as they look for bright young offensive minds to roll the dice on, committing to their vision in the hopes that they are able to strike gold on a genius.
Of course, they will only retain those responsibilities as long as they are successful, as somebody like Sean Payton has over the years with the New Orleans Saints. Kitchens will obviously have the leg up for multiple reasons.
For one thing, he will be returning to the same team that he was with last season, and rebuilding an offense that he himself had tweaked and adapted on the fly during the year. He will also have Baker Mayfield to mold and work with.
Taylor is coming into a new environment with a team that has been on a downward trajectory and not a lot of enthusiasm. They have some talent, most notably with A.J. Green, but Taylor will have to decide if he thinks that he can build around Andy Dalton.
Either way, it will be an interesting season for the AFC North with two rookie head coaches who will also be running their own offenses. Both Kitchens and Taylor will have a lot on their plate this fall, that will be sure.