As the beginning of the much-hyped 2019 Browns campaign looms closer, a few among the team’s leadership have addressed monumental “expectations,” of which the Browns haven’t dealt with in nearly 25 years. With all the attention given to new acquisitions Odell Beckham Jr., Kareem Hunt, and of course franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield, there is a fascinating development to keep an eye on through training camp: Freddie Kitchens’ first camp as a “leader of men” at head coach.
In past years under failed head coaches, not only did Berea lack the firepower but accountability towards their players. From Dwayne Bowe riding bikes every day, to overpaid players sitting out with minor strains and tweaks, the culture in Berea has been anything but professional and more reminiscent of a country club. Kitchens, who sprouted from the Bill Parcells coaching tree, is trying to change that throughout the first week of training camp. At practice on Sunday, a fight broke out between the offense and defense, involving 2018 third-round pick Chad Thomas. In response, Kitchens made the entire team run laps because, in Freddie’s own words:
“We win and lose as a team.” This may seem “old school” or “outdated.”
As many have described it recently, though, accountability and leadership are traits as old as time. The clear lack of it since 1999 is the main reason why losing has been the norm up until today.
We’ve also seen players running for committing penalties at the line of scrimmage, putting forth a sub-par effort and dropping passes, all problems shamelessly on display under Hue Jackson’s direction. Ideally, the Browns undergo a transformation similar to the Rams’ culture under Sean McVay’s first year, in which the 33-year-old coach instilled team standards and enforced his vision, leading Los Angeles to two division championships and a Super Bowl appearance. Judging by reports coming out of Berea since Thursday, a similar shift could be taking place. Practices are efficient, drills are done until they’re done right, and inexcusable penalties are not tolerated.
We all know that Kitchens is genuine. He’s not punishing players to appear tough; he’s doing it to uphold the standards they’ve all agreed upon. Players aren’t singled out for their mistakes, the whole team deals with the appropriate consequences. With a slew of colorful personalities, celebrities, and stars on the Browns roster, it should be interesting to see how our first-year head coach corrals all of them, but the signs are showing that perhaps we should trust that he was taught right, just like other descendants of Parcells, including Mike Zimmer, Anthony Lynn, Tom Coughlin, Sean Payton, and Bill Belichick.