Freddie Kitchens wasn’t much more than a running backs coach when he entered the 2018 season with the Cleveland Browns. Half a year later, he finds himself in the head coaching seat after spending the second half of last season serving as offensive coordinator.
Kitchens’ offense helped to turn a team sitting at 2-5-1 into one that very nearly posted a winning record, going 5-3 over the course of the final eight games, their only losses all coming to playoff teams, among them the Kansas City Chiefs.
But now that he is in the head coaching chair, he’s not planning on changing anything about what got him to where he is now. And that includes calling plays. Kitchens made if very explicit that he is going to retain the play-calling responsibilities for the Browns in 2019, in spite of the fact that they just hired a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken, who led the top passing attack in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When asked during his introductory press conference about who would be calling plays, he said, “I will. Yeah, I will. I told Todd yesterday that I did not want to hire someone and just give them the title of offensive coordinator. I wanted an offensive coordinator that just was not going to call plays”.
I mean, you almost literally could not state it any clearer than that. I’m calling the plays, you can still come in and be the offensive coordinator but I will be running the offense when it’s on the field. He won’t be the first head coach to do this and certainly not the last, but nevertheless.
Of Monken, he said, “he made a decision based on people. Our decisions here are going to be made on people. What type of person that is, what type of person are you going to be surrounded with? Todd made the decision based on people”.
“He had other opportunities”, Kitchens expanded regarding his new offensive coordinator. After the Buccaneers brought in Bruce Arians as head coach, he decided to install Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator. “He came in and made the decision for what he was going to be surrounded with and the environment that is going to be created moving forward”.
Kitchens has never held a position like this before, and even being a playcaller at the NFL level if new to him. He and the organization are expecting a lot out of him as a rookie head coach, but he certainly feels up to the task.
“I look at it as an advantage”, he said. “People tend to forget what goes on to get you to the field. Between the meeting rooms, the practice field and ultimately to the game field, there has to be conversation. It has to be real-life conversation, because a lot of times, football is not everyone’s life all of the time. So you better get to know the person. That will enable you to have tough decisions and tough questions, which will get that individual and that player better”.
We saw Kitchens make a lot of key decisions with the Browns’ offense in the second half of the season, including featuring Nick Chubb, benching Desmond Harrison at left tackle in favor of Greg Robinson, using more spread formations, and breaking out the gadget plays, which proved effective. He did that on the fly. What will he do with a full year to prepare?