The Cleveland Browns are entering the 2019 season with higher expectations than they ever have before as an expansion franchise, now two decades into their second life. They nearly posted a winning record in 2018, which is a marvel considering how long it’s been since that happened, falling a long field goal short of going 8-7-1 after losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the finale.
They posted a 5-3 record in the second half of the season after firing Hue Jackson as head coach and Todd Haley as offensive coordinator. And Freddie Kitchens has pretty much taken over both of those posts, at least in part.
Kitchens, who was the running backs coach last year, became the interim offensive coordinator and oversaw a nice turnaround for the unit over the final eight games, which helped him earn his first head coaching job.
He had said that he will remain the playcaller; however, they still brought in a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken, in a role that isn’t entirely clear. There have been some rumors that his transition into the team hasn’t gone as smoothly as planned, but that has been disputed, from sources of Cleveland.com. Rather, it’s gone as expected, which is a “work in progress”.
Monken specifically used that phrase during OTAs, explaining that the offense the Browns will be running this year will be an amalgamation of a number of different philosophies, building from what Kitchen did last year, then adding what Monken brings over from Tampa Bay, and also including the insights of offensive line coach James Campen, coming over from the Packers.
That might sound like a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but in reality, this is how a game plan is pieced together on most teams. It has been a collaborative effort in Pittsburgh, likely even more so with Randy Fichtner rather than Haley at offensive coordinator now. Mike Munchak had his voice; now Shaun Sarrett will have a bigger contribution in the room.
It’s understandable for things to be bumpy along the way when you have as much going on, and changing, as the Browns have. Even though Kitchens already planted the seeds of his offensive philosophy in the second half of last season, everything that he did then was done on the fly.
The offense is much more set heading into this year as well. They know who their quarterback is. They know who their wide receivers and running backs are. On the offensive line, there is only one spot up for grabs, and Austin Corbett appears to be the favorite.