After taking over the play-calling duties on offense midway through the 2018 season, Freddie Kitchens seemed to give the Cleveland Browns a new hope. Baker Mayfield was firing on all cylinders on his way to breaking the rookie touchdown record for a quarterback and the offense was clicking. Whether it was Kitchens’ creative and innovative play designs or just the fresh look, something special seemed to be brewing. The proof was in the numbers:
QB Hits Allowed from Weeks 9-17:
PHI, TEN: 39
BUF, CIN: 47
CAR, NYJ: 49
JAX, LAR: 57
GB, KC, SEA: 58
ATL, DET, LAC, OAK: 59
HOU, TB: 60
SF, WAS: 62
Again, keep Freddie Kitchens.
— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) December 31, 2018
According to @FO_ASchatz, the #Browns went from #29 offense DVOA to #2 once Freddie Kitchens took over (weeks 9-17). Every team is looking for a young, innovative coach. We now have ours and I’m ecstatic. #Browns @OrangeisOranger
— Cody Suek (@WFNYCody) January 9, 2019
I think you have to look at this from a pre-Kitchens and post-Kitchens perspective. Drops decreased significantly in weeks 9-17. Also, #Browns were 30th in yards per rec. under Hue and 1st under Freddie: pic.twitter.com/IlBnIXeNZB
— Cody Suek (@WFNYCody) March 3, 2019
The Browns averaged 6.86 yards per play with Freddie Kitchens as Offensive Coordinator (Weeks 9-17).
The 2000 Rams (6.98) are the only team since the 1970 merger to average more over a full season.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) January 9, 2019
— John Kosko (@JohnKosko3) January 9, 2019
That turn around was the key reason Freddie was promoted and named the head coach of the Browns prior to the season. Considering it was the first time he has ever been a head coach at any level in his life, the team had enough confidence in him to continue to develop the offense, getting the best out of each player and using their strengths to maximize the potential of the offense as much as possible.
He was expected to continue that creative and innovation playcalling in 2019 while also taking on a much bigger role as the head coach. Yet, through the first three weeks of the season, it wasn’t there. Wide receivers were going deep and not looking back for the ball until they were 20-30 yards downfield with the Browns on their own goal line. Baker was taking forever to throw the ball because of the receivers’ long routes that took time to develop. The offensive line seemed to struggle because of the extra time, all while Mayfield was continuing to bail outside the pocket because he was clearly losing trust in the offensive line. But it wasn’t that, it was the playcalling more than anything. Kitchens acknowledged that time and time again, especially following the loss against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3.
Then, something changed. The creative playcalling returned in Week 4 and to no one’s surprise, the Browns offense had the best week they had so far this season. Not only did they rack up 530 total yards of offense, but they put up 40 points in Baltimore. It was a beautiful sight. So many different things seemed to be clicking that were off the track the first three weeks of the season. Even though it took until Week 4, the 2018 version of Freddie was back. The misdirections, wide receiver screens, play-action passes, pump-fake draw plays, all of it made thins so much easier for the offense to move the ball down the field, including the fact that the shorter routes the wideouts were running made things easier for Mayifleid. It’s not a coincidence.
Approx. 0.60 seconds faster than Weeks 1-3. Great to see.
— Cody Suek (@WFNYCody) September 30, 2019
Through the first three weeks of the season, many seemed to question how much of an impact offensive coordinator Todd Monken was having in terms of Kitchens’ play-calling. That seemed to be the only big difference from last season besides the fact that the Browns acquired Odell Beckham, one of the best receivers in the game. OBJ was supposed to make things easier, not tougher. Through the first three weeks, something seemed off. But in Baltimore this past Sunday, everything was clicking offensively. Kitchens’ ability to put his players and offense in the best position to succeed was evident.
Most importantly, his creative play-calling was back.
The first play when that became most notable was the Browns ran a double-reverse pass during the second quarter in a play that OBJ not only (somehow) threw the ball 60 yards in the air, showing off his arm, but a play that should have resulted in a long reception to Damion Ratley yards away from the end zone. Unfortunately, Ratley was unable to bring in the catch, but the creativeness was still very nice to see and seemed to lead to better things for the rest of the game.
Then came the second most notable creative play of the game for the Browns offense. On third-and-4 with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Browns holding a 17-10 lead, Kitchens once again brought out his creative playbook. During a play where it seemed like Baker had three options out of the backfield, whether it was handing the ball off to Dontrell Hilliard, or flipping it to Jarvis Landry or Beckham, the quarterback chose to give it Landry. But that wasn’t even the trickiest part.
The trickiest part of the family seemed to be when Landry almost pitched the ball back to OBJ, clearly showing that even after the three options Mayfield was able to choose from, an option play from receiver to receiver was also in the works. As you remember, Landry decided to keep the ball after looking back at Beckham. Even though he stepped out of bounds two yards before the end zone, the play proved to the Dawg Pound that the 2018 version of Kitchens that he showcased last season and was seemingly in search of through the first three weeks this season is back.
It’s not really a coincidence that the Browns offense had their best game through the first four weeks of the season in a game that Kitchens brought back the type of play-calling that made the Browns love him last season. It’s just important that he keeps doing that going forward because we all know that Creative Freddie is the best Freddie.