Browns promote OC to top job

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns didn’t have to go far to find their new coach.

Freddie Kitchens was already in the building.

The 44-year-old Kitchens, who had a dazzling eight-week run as the team’s interim offensive coordinator, is finalizing a contract to become Cleveland’s ninth coach since the franchise’s 1999 rebirth, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team is not commenting on the imminent hire.

ESPN was first to announce the decision.

Also, Gregg Williams, who went 5-3 as Cleveland’s interim coach and defensive coordinator this season, is no longer with the team, the person said. Williams was the first candidate to interview for the coaching vacancy.

Kitchens, a one-time quarterback at Alabama, has no previous head coaching experience, but his work with Cleveland’s offense — most notably quarterback Baker Mayfield — in the season’s second half vaulted him ahead of the other six candidates interviewed by the Browns, who were looking for the right coach to lead them following a stunning turnaround season.

Fangio to Denver

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Forget RPOs. John Elway is going with AARP.

The Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, 60, has accepted Elway’s offer to become the Denver Broncos’ next head coach, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Broncos didn’t announce the hiring, something the team won’t do until Fangio signs his contract. He’s expected to be introduced as the club’s 17th head coach today.

Fangio replaces Vance Joseph , who was fired on New Year’s Eve after posting the franchise’s first back-to-back losing seasons since the early 1970s.

Fangio and Elway, who turns 59 this summer, will make up one of the oldest coach-GM duos in the NFL in 2019.

Although Fangio, who turns 61 in August, has no NFL head coaching experience, he has been an assistant for 32 years in the NFL and 34 seasons overall, beginning with the Philadelphia Stars of the old USFL in 1984.

As a cordinator, the 2018 season was his best as Fangio guided a Bears defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL, allowed a league-low 17.7 points per game and led the Bears into the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

NFL defends its practice

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The NFL and the NFL Players Association say outspoken Eric Reid was not singled out with excessive drug tests.

The joint statement released Wednesday said an independent administrator found Reid received the “normal” number of drug tests this season. The statement said, “there is no evidence of targeting or any other impropriety with respect to his selection for testing.”

Reid has said he believes he was repeatedly tested because of his pending lawsuit against the league.

The Carolina Panthers safety said in December he had been tested seven times by the NFL. Reid said the league was targeting him because of the ongoing collusion case against the NFL in which he alleged team owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his decision to kneel alongside former 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem to protest racial and social injustice.

AP: Jets to hire Gase

NEW YORK — A person familiar with the decision says the New York Jets have hired former Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase as their head coach.

Gase was 23-26 in three seasons with Miami, including a playoff game in 2016, before being fired after this season. The 40-year-old coach worked as an assistant with Detroit, San Francisco and Denver before being promoted to offensive coordinator by the Broncos in 2013 and drawing rave reviews from Peyton Manning.

Gase followed coach John Fox to Chicago in 2015 to be the Bears’ offensive coordinator. He was hired by the Dolphins as their head coach the following season.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Wednesday night because the team had not yet announced the hiring.

Gase replaces Todd Bowles, who was fired after he went 24-40 in four seasons.

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