It’s nearly the middle of December and the Tennessee Vols still haven’t hired a new offensive coordinator.
With the search now in its third week, there’s been speculation that Jeremy Pruitt is waiting on a NFL coach to finish the season.
On the surface, one name immediately makes sense — Cleveland Browns interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.
Pruitt and Kitchens have an extensive history together. The two are close friends and were roommates together at Alabama (along with UT offensive line coach Will Friend).
It’s easy to see why fans, and some media analysts, would connect the dots between the two.
But I don’t think Kitchens is actually a realistic option for Tennessee, even though I think he’d be a solid hire for the Vols.
Great play design by Freddie Kitchens to get Landry a walk in TD pic.twitter.com/0tAu2Jadmp
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) December 10, 2018
The biggest reason I can’t see Kitchens in Knoxville next season is because of the success he’s having running the Browns’ offense. There’s no doubt that Baker Mayfield is playing better with Kitchens calling the plays. Whoever is hired as the Browns’ next head coach, would be wise to retain Kitchens.
And speaking of the Browns’ next head coach, there’s been some talk that Kitchens could receive an interview. Kitchens recently downplayed the talk, saying “I found it funny. People did not know who I was before this all happened.”
Kitchens becoming the Browns’ next head coach is a long shot, but it still shows you how well thought of he is.
If Kitchens isn’t retained by the whoever Cleveland hires, there’s still a more-than-likely chance that he’ll get an opportunity as a play caller elsewhere in the NFL.
Several offensive coordinators have already been fired this season. And several more will be fired by the time the playoffs get underway. Kitchens has had success with an offense that wasn’t very successful before. It doesn’t seem likely that he would eschew NFL opportunities in favor of returning to the college game.
Which brings me to my next point.
Pruitt and Kitchens have never actually coached together. And we know that Pruitt has had some influence on coaching hires at his previous stops (specifically at Georgia). It’s a bit telling that they’ve never been on a staff together. Perhaps they don’t want to adversely affect their relationship. Or maybe their coaching styles are different. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t seem like Pruitt has made it a priority to bring Kitchens back to the college game (Kitchens hasn’t coached in college since 2005 at Mississippi State).
A year ago when Pruitt was putting his staff together it was Tyson Helton who got the call to lead Tennessee’s offense, not Kitchens (who was then the Arizona Cardinals running backs coach).
Maybe Pruitt will offer Kitchens the job now that he’s seen how effective the former Alabama quarterback is as a play caller.
But I have a hard time believing that Kitchens will leave the NFL, when he’s finally getting noticed, to return to the grind of the recruiting trail.
Featured image via Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports