Around the AFC North: Browns Begin Another Coaching Search

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Browns: Freddie Kitchens Is Out, Long List of Candidates Up Next

The Cleveland Browns fired Head Coach Freddie Kitchens after just one year on the job Sunday, shortly after their disappointing 6-10 season ended. That continued a pattern for the Browns, who have had six head coaches since 2012 – Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine, Hue Jackson, Gregg Williams and Kitchens.

The Browns haven't made the playoffs since 2002 and coaching instability has been one of their issues. The AFC North is a division that includes two of the league's longest-tenured head coaches: John Harbaugh, who became the Ravens' head coach in 2008, and Mike Tomlin, who started in Pittsburgh in 2007.

Harbaugh and Tomlin both have won a Super Bowl and have established winning cultures that have stood up over time. Harbaugh has led Baltimore to the playoffs in eight of his 12 seasons, and he is a strong Coach of the Year candidate who has just finished the most successful regular season of his career (14-2). The Steelers finished 8-8 this year and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. However, Tomlin has never had a losing season, and he has also led Pittsburgh to the playoffs eight times.

That's the kind of sustained success Cleveland is looking for, and candidates they are reportedly considering include Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh, New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels, former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, and former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

Harbaugh confirmed Monday that the Browns requested an interview with Roman, and that it was granted.

The Browns began the 2019 season picked by many as the favorite to win the AFC North. But they ended the season looking for another head coach, and wide receiver Jarvis Landry said Monday that he knows what the Browns need to reach their potential.

"Leadership," Landry said while Browns players cleaned out their lockers. "Someone who demands respect, someone who respects his players and someone who respects opponents."

Bengals: Joe Burrow to Bengals Looks Even More Likely

As LSU quarterback Joe Burrow threw seven touchdown passes against Oklahoma on Saturday, it became harder to imagine the Bengals selecting anyone else with the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Heisman Trophy winner's stock has been on a meteoric rise since transferring from Ohio State to LSU in 2018.

It remains to be seen what other offseason moves the Bengals make, but Burrow throwing to current Bengals targets A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tyler Eifert and John Ross could make Cincinnati's offense more difficult to stop. It looks like the AFC North is about to get its fourth Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback joining Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III of the Ravens and Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns.

Steelers: T.J. Watt Stands Out in Difficult Season for Steelers

With the regular season over, yearly awards will be handed out soon and Pittsburgh outside linebacker T.J. Watt is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Watt had a breakout season with 14½ sacks and eight forced fumbles, including his punchout play against Ravens running back Gus Edwards on Sunday that caused Edwards to lose the football. 

Watt finished tied for fourth in the league in sacks with Danielle Hunt of the Minnesota Vikings, trailing only Shaquil Barrett of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (19½ sacks), Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals (19), and Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints (15½). Watt is one of the bright spots the Steelers can build around defensively as they look go bounce back from missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

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