Browns fire Freddie Kitchens: Six coaching candidates that make sense for Cleveland

The Freddie Kitchens era in Cleveland ended after one 6-10 season that wrapped up with the Browns' Week 17 loss to the Bengals. Shortly after the Browns' utterly disappointing 2019 season came to an end, the Browns fired Kitchens, whose job security had been under intense scrutiny after Cleveland's 2-6 start to the season. 

With Kitchens out in Cleveland, the Browns join the Panthers and Redskins as NFL teams with coaching vacancies. Don't expect that to be the case for long, however, as several other teams -- the Cowboys, for one -- are expected to make coaching changes during the first week of the offseason. For that reason, look for the Browns to act quickly with regard to filling their head coaching vacancy. 

Here's a look at six possible coaches that Browns may pursue to lead their team in 2020: 

1. Ron Rivera

A two-time NFL Coach of the Year, Rivera -- who was fired 12 games into this season -- compiled a 76-61-1 regular record in nearly eight full seasons as the Panthers' head coach. Rivera also guided the Panthers to three consecutive NFC South division titles that included a trip to Super Bowl 50. In 2015, he became sixth head coach in NFL history to lead his team to at least 15 regular season wins. Rivera led Carolina to four postseason appearances between 2013-17, before winning just seven games in 2018 and five games during the first three quarters of the 2019 season. 

2. Mike McCarthy

The longtime Packers coach led Green Bay to their most recent Super Bowl victory at the end of the 2010 season. The next season, McCarthy became the fifth coach to lead his team to at least 15 wins during the regular season before being upset by the eventual champion Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs. McCarthy had just one other "one and done" in Green Bay while leading the Packers to eight consecutive trips to the playoffs from 2009-16. A 7-9 season in 2017 and a 4-7-1 start to the 2018 season ultimately cost McCarthy his job in Green Bay. In nearly 13 full seasons with the Packers, McCarthy compiled a 125-77-2 regular season record and an 10-8 postseason record. 

The 2019 regular season is in the books and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break everything down on the Pick Six Podcast. Listen below and be sure to subscribe right here for daily NFL goodness.

3. Robert Saleh

The 40-year-old defensive coordinator has helped turn the 49ers' defense into one of the league's best units heading into the postseason. Through 15 games, the 49ers' defense led the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed. San Francisco's defense was also second in the NFL in third down efficiency. Before joining the 49ers' staff in 2017, Saleh won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Seahawks' coaching staff during the 2013 season. He has also had NFL coaching stops in Jacksonville (linebackers coach, 2014-16) and Houston (2005-10). 

4. Kevin Stefanski

Currently the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, Stefanski was a finalist for the Browns' coaching vacancy last offseason. A Vikings assistant coach since 2006, the 37-year-old Stefanski was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator prior to the start of the 2019 season. This season, the Vikings' offense is currently seventh in the NFL in scoring, seventh in rushing, ninth in third down efficiency and fourth in red zone efficiency. Under Stefanski, the Vikings have received strong individual seasons from quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook, and receiver Stefon Diggs. The play of the Vikings' offense helped Minnesota win 10 regular season games while punching a playoff ticket. 

5. Urban Meyer

After publicly stating that he would be interested in the Cowboys' head coaching position, it's not a stretch to believe that Meyer wouldn't at least entertain the thought of coaching the Browns in a city that is less than an hour away from his hometown of Ashtabula, Ohio. Just last week, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote about why Meyer would be an ideal fit in Cleveland, a team looking for its sixth new head coach since the start of the 2013 season. In 17 seasons as a college football head coach, the 56-year-old Meyer -- who served as a TV analyst this past season after leading Ohio State to a Rose Bowl win and second consecutive Big 10 title -- went 187-32 that included two perfect seasons (one at Utah in 2004, the other at Ohio State in 2012), three national championships and two appearances in the College Football Playoffs. 

6. Lincoln Riley

Riley, who coached Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield during Mayfield's Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2017, has put together a 36-6 record in three years as the Sooners' head coach. During that span, the 36-year-old Riley has presided over an Oklahoma offense that has averaged 45.2 points per game. The only blemish on Riley's resume in Norman has been his bowl record, as the Sooners are 0-3 in postseason games, including Saturday night's blowout loss to LSU in the College Football Playoff semifinal. 

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