People vs. Charles Frederick Kitchens Jr.
Trial Day: 9/8 – 12/29
Cleveland Municipal Courthouse
Judge Haslam: The prosecution may proceed with their closing argument.
Prosecutor: Thank you, your honor. Good Morning.
Jury: Good Morning.
Prosecutor: I’d first like to congratulate each of you on making it through another difficult period as a Cleveland fan. Each day you smile is a miracle, given the long and difficult path this franchise has brought you down. I, like you, am a victim of the repeated human rights violations conducted by the brass in Berea, whatever form it might take.
My purpose today is not to rehash the nightmares of our past, but instead to look at the current situation objectively, to grade the performance of our head coach, and to bring justice once and for all to the 2019 Cleveland Browns. Upon this argument’s conclusion, you will see that we have once again reached a critical point in our history, one that forces us to take action, not because we are angry, but because we are aware. There have been horrific wrongdoing over the course of these twelve games. So much so that we can no longer remain idle. As citizens of Cuyahoga County, or any household that wears the brown and orange, it is our civic duty to act now and break free from the straps that have held us back for two decades, moving forward out of mediocrity one final time.
We find ourselves at the three-quarter mark of the season two games below .500. It is easy to compare our high hopes during the preseason to the disappointment we feel now, but that is less to the point. Our focus should be on the leader of the team itself, and the job he’s done since assuming the position in January.
Freddie Kitchens was a hire greeted by intense optimism in Northeast Ohio, and why should it not have been? After firing previous head coach Hue Jackson, the team finished with a 5-3 record. One could say that the identity of the team was built on an innovative offense that was called by Kitchens. Baker Mayfield broke the rookie touchdown record in this system, and both the run and the pass were operating smoothly. We forget however, that Kitchens was not the head coach during this period. Interim duties were handed to veteran Gregg Williams who was in charge of preparing his players for each of their final eight games. By Kitchen’s own admission, the offense being run was a leftover of estranged offensive coordinator Todd Haley and not his own.
So what, I ask the jury, have we seen since Mr. Williams has exited the organization. What have we observed since Mr. Haley’s playbook was discarded in favor of Kitchens’ own? With four games left to play, this team is one loss shy of matching last year’s total, a season broken in halves by internal discord.
Judge Haslam: Excuse me sir, but that phrase has been trademarked.
Prosecutor: Apologies, your honor. Please strike that from the record.
Judge Haslam: So stricken.
Prosecutor: Continuing on, let us look deeper at the statistics that separate these two periods. After recording 27 touchdowns in his rookie season, Mayfield is on pace to finish with just 20. Mr. Mayfield recorded 14 interceptions in 2018, a number he has already matched with four games left on the schedule. Cleveland’s blockbuster acquisition, Odell Beckham Jr., now has entered his longest career stretch without a 100-yard game, something even a geriatric Eli Manning avoided during his time in New York. Mr. Mayfield’s completion percentage has fallen nearly four whole points. The Browns are on pace to record 36 touchdowns in 2019, falling a whole 8 short of the previous year’s total. The team’s offense has been in a state of decay since that fateful day in January, and we can no longer allow this regression to continue.
A contrarian could point to a schedule littered with difficult defenses. Denver, Buffalo, Pittsburg, San Francisco. But can they defend Coach Kitchens’ in-game decision making? Time after time we have suffered through phantom timeouts, the abandonment of the run, and reliance on complicated plays that are executed with nonexistent discipline. The Browns have been outcoached in multiple outings this season, on occasion by much less talented teams. If we cannot overcome a coaching deficit with an overabundance of talent, at what point does retaining Mr. Kitchens become nonsensical?
There have been multiple instances of bad decision making leading to losses over the last twelve games. Throwing on the goal line against Los Angeles, loss of composure against Seattle, neglecting the run during the second half in Pittsburg. It is not that we are impatient and expect a rookie coach to go without his mistakes, but the sample size has grown to a sufficient length, and Mr. Kitchens has shown little to no signs of improvement.
At the base level, most players and coaches would say that penalties are the purest measurement of how well a coach has prepared his team. The Cleveland Browns currently lead the league with this mark, also taking first place in player ejections. There has been little focus and less on the field discipline. If we are to have a franchise that refuses to beat itself, we will need a leader that is capable of preventing it from happening.
The true crime presented here today is the misuse of an amazingly talented football team. Two possible future Hall of Fame receivers. A running back that is matching numbers set by the great Jim Brown. A defensive line that sports three pro bowlers. At what point do we look away from the soldiers and point to the general? Ask yourselves this, would a strong and proven coach struggle with this talent the way Mr. Kitchens has? Would even a mediocre one? Could we envision one of these men wearing a ‘Pittsburg started it’ T-shirt in public?
Judge Haslam: (whispers to the bailiff) Is that true?
Bailiff Dorsey: It is, your honor.
Prosecutor: The question we must ask ourselves is this: Do we see Coach Kitchens making massive improvements during the remaining games and into the offseason? What evidence do we have to reference? These twelve games are all we have in front of us, plenty of time to fix obvious coaching mistakes and tune preparation techniques. But instead we have the same issues that have plagued this team since the first week in September, and that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is inexcusable.
I ask you all to think about the coaches that are currently available for employment, the Ron Rivera’s, the Mike McCarthy’s, not to mention the plethora of talented coordinators and assistants who have proven that they are ready to take the next step. Now think about this team, one year from now with Mr. Kitchens still acting as head coach. Ask yourselves this: which would put this franchise in a better position to succeed? Will it be the critically inexperienced coach who fumbled the opportunity to win with a talented roster, or proven leaders who have taken organizations to Superbowl’s? With key players growing older every day, would it be wise to grant Mr. Kitchens another year, given what he has shown us thus far?
The prosecution rests your honor.
Judge Haslam: Thank you, sir. The defense will now be given the floor…