When the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens, I quickly couched any criticism with a statement about how I liked the decision to hire Freddie Kitchens. I then went on to say that it was tough to square the 10,000-foot view of the Cleveland Browns’ year-in-the-life of a woebegone franchise. When the Browns made their debut on Hard Knocks, would you have been happy or mortally depressed if I told you about nine months later the Browns would clean house? Would you have been happy or sad knowing the Browns would elevate their incumbent running backs coach to lead the organization? How about if I told you he was going to be the head coach and call his own plays? Most of us like Freddie Kitchens and most of us co-signed with the way it all happened. When you go by just the bullet points, however, it’s not a great look.
This is where I once again tell you I’m optimistic about Freddie Kitchens. I like his demeanor. I love that he and Baker Mayfield get along. I think he has a great personality to handle the rigors of the public-facing portions of the job. After that, it’s all just a guess and we’ll have to see how he does.
The Browns had one of the most attractive jobs in the entire league because of the emergence of Baker Mayfield and John Dorsey. They turned that job search into some kind of continuity play with Freddie Kitchens. And to be fair, I’m sure continuity played a very minimal part in the hiring process. Also to be fair, it takes more than one game to judge a year’s worth of decision-making in a complex organization like an NFL team. Still, after one game, it’s so far, so bad.
The Browns played so poorly in their opening game that they quit down the stretch. They committed more penalties than we’ve ever seen, including one so egregious it dismantled the Browns’ already-suspect offensive line. They did so in an opening-week game after spending the entire pre-season basically not preparing in any of the supposed dress-rehearsals. If that doesn’t change quickly, Freddie Kitchens will once again be known as the mistakenly promoted running backs coach from the tail end of the Hue Jackson debacle.
We were all here for how it played out and that’s an oversimplification, but in a long history, this is what will be in the Cliff’s Notes. It will be another forgettable bullet point in the long history of the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. We don’t get to make the rules for stuff like this. That’s how it plays out.
I don’t expect that to be the way we remember this era, but I’m simultaneously willing to recognize it’s distinctly possible.