For the ninth time since the Cleveland Browns returned to the National Football League, they have hired a head coach who is willing to talk a big game about his plans for the team’s immediate future. For the first time, perhaps, there may actually be people starting to believe him.
Freddie Kitchens, who began the 2018 regular season as the Browns’ running backs coach, took over the offensive coordinator job midseason after the team let go of Head Coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. He took over Haley’s job, and he did that so well that now he’s taking over Jackson’s on a full-time basis.
“Since 1999, I understand and I relish the fact that there, have been more downs than ups, but that ends today – I promise you that”, said the rookie head coach, referring to the Brown’s near two decades of misery since they came back as an expansion team.
The last time they posted a winning record was in 2007. They came very close to doing so this past season, finishing 7-8-1 and falling short by just two points in the season finale against the Baltimore Ravens. They passed up a long field goal attempt that could have possibly given them the win.
“It drives me crazy that people are happy with 7-8-1”, Kitchens said. “It drives me literally crazy. If I was in a different setting, my vocabulary would demonstrate that. That is not acceptable. Nobody here wants that. We all understand that it was an improvement, but under no circumstances is that ever going to be acceptable”.
In his own defense, since he didn’t defend himself, the Browns did go 5-3 after he was named offensive coordinator, and the only three losses came to playoff teams, namely the aforementioned Ravens, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Houston Texans.
“We only have one goal here and that is to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Everything we do moving forward, if it is going to benefit us moving in that direction, we will make that decision – from a coaching staff perspective”.
It’s pretty bold talk to be talking about Super Bowls for an organization that hasn’t even been to the postseason in over a decade, but at least Kitchens may have some cache to get away with it given that he actually showed tangible signs of success.
And for the first time since their last playoff appearance, the Browns actually have a roster that has proven or budding talent all over the place, most importantly at the quarterback position with Baker Mayfield, who set a new rookie record for touchdown passes.