Browns Coach Quits in Cleveland, Heads to Collegiate Ranks

Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Getty Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns reacts during the first half of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 31, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Cleveland Browns have lost their second defensive coach in as many days with the departure Chris Kiffin, who is headed to the collegiate ranks.

Kiffin has served as the Browns’ defensive line coach for the past two seasons since February 2020. He will leave the NFL to manage the defense for his brother Lane Kiffin, head coach at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).

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Bruce Feldman of The Athletic first reported the news via Twitter on Thursday, January 13.

“SOURCE: Cleveland Browns DL coach Chris Kiffin is expected to join the Ole Miss coaching staff as a Co-defensive coordinator and will run the defense along with Rebels defensive coordinator Chris Partridge,” Feldman wrote.

Kiffin Will Be Missed Along Cleveland Defensive Line

GettyMyles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns high-fives teammate Jadeveon Clowney.

Position coaches in the NFL don’t garner a great deal of fanfare, but they absolutely matter. It can be argued that Kiffin mattered to the Browns more than most.

For starters, the defensive front is the best unit on that side of the ball for Cleveland. Much of that has to do with the talent that resides there, starting with edge rusher Myles Garrett. But Kiffin has been Garrett’s most hands-on coach at practice for two years. His departure is bound to mean something.

Garrett set two franchise records for the Browns in 2021, both for sacks in a season (16) and sacks in a single game (4.5), against the Chicago Bears. He finished third in the NFL in the statistic, 2.5 sacks behind the Bears’ Robert Quinn and 6.5 sacks back of league leader T.J. Watt, of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite the superior on-field production of those two players, however, it was Garrett who graded out as the top edge rusher in the NFL this season with a pass rush rating of 92.7, per Pro Football Focus.

On the other side of the line, Jadeveon Clowney had a strong campaign with 9 sacks. That total is the most he’s notched in four years, for which Kiffin also deserves at least some of the credit. Clowney will hit the free agent market this offseason after signing a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the Browns that topped out in value at $8 million.

Likely to command nearly twice that much in free agency, the Browns may lose out on Garrett’s running mate, which would make the loss of Kiffin sting that much more across what was a highly productive unit in 2021.

Kiffin Second Defensive Coach to Depart Cleveland in as Many Days

GettyHead coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns.

Just one day prior to Kiffin’s departure, assistant defensive line coach Jeremy Garrett announced he was leaving the Browns organization to run the defensive front at Liberty University.

It again was Feldman who broke the news.

“SOURCE: Liberty is expected to hire Cleveland Browns assistant Jeremy Garrett as the new D-line coach,” Feldman reported Wednesday.

Whether Jeremy Garrett’s decision was tied to knowledge of Kiffin’s plans to leave the Browns was not clear as of Thursday. However, the job with Cleveland was likely a stepping stone position for the assistant D-line coach. He had been with the Browns for just one season, after spending the previous year at Vanderbilt University as that team’s defensive quality control coach.

Jeremy Garrett played his college football at Ole Miss between 2004-07, back when current Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze pulled double duty there as the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach.

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