The Cleveland Browns finished the 2018 season with a 5-3 record in the season half of the year after Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired and Freddie Kitchens was installed as the offensive coordinator. His play-calling and schematic adjustments are largely credited with the turnaround that nearly saw them post a winning record.
Now that he is the team’s head coach, and the front office has made very significant moves to bolster both sides of the football, the Browns are getting a lot of attention, and receiving a lot of talk about their potential as early as 2019, including but not limited to winning the AFC North title.
On paper, for example, their offense looks impressive, boasting both Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry at wide receiver (supplemented by Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins) in addition to tight end David Njoku and running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, with a solid offensive line and a young emerging franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield.
While they are now in the market for a safety after they traded Jabrill Peppers as part of the deal to land Beckham, they have talent in the secondary with Denzel Ward and Damarious Randall, and the front seven boasts Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, Genard Avery, and others.
Does Kitchens care? Just ask him.
“Right now, we are just a bunch of good individual players. Yeah, our roster looks great on paper – whoopty-hell, alright? – but at the end of the day, we better be a good team”, he said. “You start building that during this time of the year, and training camp is a big portion of that”.
‘Whoopty-hell’ was not a phrase before yesterday, but it certainly will be, at least in Cleveland, for the foreseeable future. The organization and the fans have been really buying into Kitchens as a first-year head coach.
“I truly believe the letter ‘I’ is a dangerous proposition when you start using it in terms of describing yourself in a team setting”, he said yesterday. “We do not do that here. It is always ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’. That is what it is now, and that is what it became when I got hired. We were not hiring anybody that did not have that same kind of outlook on things. We want to create that environment for our players. Whenever we do that, we will have something”.
Truth be told, it does sound like something the Pittsburgh Steelers could have used a bit more of lately, and perhaps now they will have more of it going forward after weathering the recent storms involving a couple of disgruntled former players who defamed the organization on their way out the door.