The Cleveland Browns relieved Todd Haley of his play-calling duties and have promoted associate head coach Freddie Kitchens to offensive coordinator. The decision comes after the team announced to firings of head coach Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley on Monday.
Freddie Kitchens is in unfamiliar territory as he enters his first career play-calling role in the National Football League. The Cleveland Browns made it clear their top priority is the continued development for number one overall pick Baker Mayfield and they believe Kitchens is the man for the job.
The first time play-caller did a decent job in his first opportunity on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Cleveland scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the first half and ended the game with 21 total points.
Sure the offense seemingly improved from the previous eight weeks, but Kitchens is a football lifer. He doesn’t seek accolades and compliments; he seeks wins. And the Browns didn’t do enough to do that against a high-powered Chiefs team.
So, how did the Cleveland Browns end up with Freddie Kitchens in the first place?
Kitchens was Cleveland’s running backs coach and associate head coach the first half of the season and worked closely under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. He is familiar with the Browns system, as well as Baker Mayfield, and his experience with quarterbacks played a significant factor in his promotion on Tuesday.
So, now that we know the name Freddie Kitchens… who is he and where did he come from?
Believe it or not, he was Alabama’s Mr. Football in 1992 as a quarterback for Etowah High School. After a successful high school career, he went on to play quarterback for Alabama and finished with a 22-13 record as the starter. In those 35 games Kitchens totaled 4,668 passing yards and 30 touchdowns and appeared in an SEC Championship Game in 1996. The Crimson Tide, coached by Gene Stallings, lost the game to Florida who eventually won the National Championship.
Kitchens transitioned to coaching in 1999 at the collegiate level until getting his first NFL gig as the tight ends coach for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. Just one season later, he accepted the same position with the Arizona Cardinals. The former quarterback remained in Arizona until being hired by the Cleveland Browns this season.
Kitchens does not have any experience calling plays beyond Cleveland’s fourth preseason game in 2018. However, he had tremendous success as the quarterback coach with the Cardinals from 2013-2016.
As a matter of fact, Kitchens receives significant credit in revitalizing quarterback Carson Palmer’s career upon his arrival to the Arizona Cardinals. In 2015 (Kitchens first year as Arizona’s QB coach) Palmer threw 4,671 passing yards on 63.7 percent completion worth 35 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. Palmer was highly considered for the MVP race that season and the Cardinals finished with a 13-3 record.
The success Kitchens had with Palmer is a considerable reason as to why the Browns are confident in moving forward with him as their primary play-caller. The importance to develop rookie Baker Mayfield is the top priority for the duration of the 2018 NFL season. The ultimate fear for the Browns is to lose their franchise quarterback to injury in a lost season.
Many believe Mayfield regressed after his shocking comeback victory against the New York Jets, though Kitchens attacked the problem immediately.
#Browns Baker Mayfield says OC Freddie Kitchens was vocal all week about doing what players were comfortable with, eliminating stuff they weren’t comfortable with. “I think that’s why we played better offensively”
— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) November 4, 2018
The number one overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft stated after Sunday’s loss that Kitchens made sure to play to his players’ strengths and not allow his “style” to dictate the plays being called. Mayfield and the rest of the team cited this as to why they were successful from the start against the Chiefs.
It should be noted that the Browns (including both Jackson and Haley) have repeatedly stated their desire to get running back Duke Johnson more involved. It’s been since 2015 that Jackson seemingly has a quote set after a game about “getting Duke the football” more, and he never really did.
However, Kitchens used Cleveland’s best weapon early and often as Johnson finished with nine receptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns. That was yet another thing the Browns quarterback was pleased with after the game on Sunday.
#Browns Baker Mayfield said they’re running same offense, but focusing on things they’re good at. Follows up saying they got Duke Johnson involved because he’s a playmaker, so they’ll do that every chance they get
— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) November 4, 2018
At the end of the day, winning is all that matters in an NFL season and the Browns were unsuccessful in that against the Chiefs on Sunday. However, with a new offensive coordinator it’s never easy to go into a game with less than a weeks’ work and be highly efficient.
Although, the Browns and, in particular, Baker Mayfield, showed enough improvements in their passing attack that the team can come away from the loss with something to build upon. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but it was an improvement and that’s all this young Cleveland Browns team can ask for in the remaining seven games.
Freddie Kitchens gets it. He played quarterback at a high-level at a top program in college, similar to Baker Mayfield. He has simplified the offense for his quarterback and is insistent on utilizing the Browns best weapons. That’s a nice change in Cleveland and something to look forward to as Kitchens and Baker continue working together.
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