the Pittsburgh Steelers managed an 8-8 season, posting a 8-6 record between two backup quarterbacks, one of whom was not even on a practice squad for the first week of the season. The Cleveland Browns, with the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year at quarterback, and making big splash moves, including the acquisition of All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., finished the season 6-10.
They went 7-8-1 last year, as a reminder. And the Browns thought they could credit last year’s ‘improvement’ to the play-calling of then-interim-offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, whom they promoted to head coach in the offseason.
Turns out they decided that they were wrong about that, because, following today’s dismal loss to the otherwise-terrible Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns elected to fire Kitchens, having barely had the opportunity to complete his first season.
Kitchens is now the fifth head coach to have been fired since Jimmy Haslam took over the Browns in 2012. He initially inherited Pat Shurmur, who likely will be fired this year by the New York Giants after two seasons; Shurmur was in his second season, and was fired after the 2012 season.
He was followed by Rob Chudzinski, who only survived one season. Kitchens is now the second head coach to be fired by the Browns after just one season since they returned to the NFL in 1999. Congratulations on that achievement.
There was so much optimism for Cleveland heading into this season, to the point where Las Vegas had them as the odds-on favorite to win the AFC North, and even had solid odds for the Super Bowl. Baker Mayfield, of course, had a good shot at winning the MVP Award. Instead, it will be Lamar Jackson, drafted 31 picks later.
It will be interesting to see how many changes we see in Cleveland this offseason. There have been rumors that general manager John Dorsey’s job may not be safe, either. And will Beckham play for the Browns, or will he try to force his way out?
At the very least, they should provide entertaining fodder this offseason as Steelers fans lick their wounds over a season of what-ifs. Or at least one of them, that being, what if Ben Roethlisberger had stayed healthy? It’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t have at least made the postseason.
Kitchens was just hoping to keep his job. He hasn’t. But that shouldn’t be surprising, considering the number of times he looked to be in over his head. I recall many reporters citing a clip from Hard Knocks last season in which Kitchens, then the running backs coach, made reasonable proposal to head coach Hue Jackson.
Jackson, in blustery fashion, shot him down, essentially saying there’s a reason I’m in this seat. That exchange led to Kitchens’ worth to take the seat for himself being supported, yet in the end, he turned out to be just as incompetent. And at least Jackson probably wouldn’t have worn that stupid shirt.