Why Freddie Kitchens Needs to Go, and Five Candidates to Replace Him
Recently, the Browns suffered another ugly loss, 20-13, to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was yet another game in which the Browns’ talent was superior to their opponent, but they found another way to lose a game anyway.
Generally, when a single player underperforms juxtaposed to a team meeting expectations otherwise, it’s on the player. When it’s the team as a whole having a rough team, you blame the coach. Does first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens deserve the blame for this lost season?
Oh yeah. You bet he does.
Let’s have a timeline of this year’s horrific Kitchens-induced blunders that the Browns have suffered through:
Week 1 – The team records 18 penalties for over 200 yards in a terrible blowout loss to the Titans.
Week 3 – Kitchens brilliantly calls a HB Stretch play on 4th and 7, while the team is trying to drive to tie the game in an eventual loss to the Rams. Later, in a goal-to-go situation, Kitchens calls four passing plays in a row from the Rams’ 4-yard line.
Week 6 – The Browns, at one point holding a 20-0 lead over Seattle, decide to abandon the run game completely in the second half, even while still holding the lead. They’d eventually lose the game after failing to run out the clock enough and not continuing to roll with what’d been working.
Week 7 – In a close game late in New England, Kitchens infamously intentionally accepts a delay of game penalty, so that the team had “more room to work with” in a 4th and 16 conversion attempt. Once again, the team gets a strong running game established and then randomly abandons it unnecessarily later in the game.
Week 8 – As if Week 1 wasn’t bad enough, the team’s complete lack of discipline becomes even more apparent when an embarrassing series of missed tackles makes undrafted rookie QB Brandon Allen look great in his first NFL game ever. The team ends up losing a very winnable game.
Week 9 – One drive after getting stuffed eight times in a goal-to-go situation and coming away with no points, the Browns encounter 4th and 4 from inside the Bills’ 5 yard line. Kitchens sends the offense out there, seemingly in a contest to see who can leave the most points on the board, before lineman Chris Hubbard mercifully records a false start penalty, prompting Kitchens to actually do something smart and kick the field goal. The Browns ended up winning the game by one field goal.
Week 10 – After a night of questionably dirty hits that injured two Steelers players, Kitchen’s amazingly disciplined team comes into full-force late in the game, as Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi earn themselves suspensions in an altercation with numerous Steelers players.
In the week leading up to Week 12 – Kitchens is spotted taking a picture with a fan while donning a “Pittsburgh Started It” T-shirt, referencing the altercation in Week 10’s game.
Week 12 – Up 10-0, the Browns begin to randomly abandon their strong running game which got them their lead. As the team loses their defensive line to injuries, their miscreant playcalling causes the offense to stagnate, resulting in a blown lead and an eventual loss.
Have we not seen enough? This isn’t a coach with growing pains, this is a guy who has never been a head coach ever before, was only even a coordinator for a couple months and is completely and consistently overwhelmed. He has proven again and again to be incompetent, on and off the field, and is about 90% responsible for a tragically squandered season.
With that, let’s have a look at who should take over the mantle Kitchens has defiled:
5. Kevin Stefanski
Kevin Stefanski, while not the best of the five identified here, would be a solid candidate for a few reasons. First, he’s actually got plenty of experience as an offensive coordinator. The adjustments he made to help turn the Vikings’ season around early on were proof that he actually knows how to get the most out of his players, and can work with a lot of talent like the Vikings (and Browns) have. They also reflect on his ability to, say, make halftime adjustments in the locker room that could be the difference between a win and a loss. Most importantly, Stefanski has been in football since 2006 as a member of the Vikings, working his way up through the team’s totem pole. He isn’t a flash in the pan candidate who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. As such, Stefanski deserves a look for the team’s (hopefully) soon to be head coaching vacancy.
4. Pete Carmichael Jr.
Offensive coordinator for the Saints since 2009, Carmichael Jr. is a proven product who has turned in years of success with the New Orleans Saints. As evidenced by his work with Drew Brees, Carmichael knows exactly how to get the most out of a guy with Baker Mayfield’s athleticism and skillset. For these reasons, he would make an excellent candidate to take the role.
3. Dan Quinn
Dan Quinn is probably on his way out after another disappointing season with Atlanta. Why then, would he make for a good candidate with the Browns? Funny enough, while Quinn was hired away from being a defensive coordinator with the Seahawks, his work with the team’s offense has been the most outstanding part about his time with the team. Matt Ryan has turned in a few great seasons under center with Quinn at the helm and the team has been getting excellent production out of everything around him, too. Quinn has drawn production out of a few unknown names as receivers and as running backs. He has a lot more to work within that regard here in Cleveland, minus the massive mess the Falcons currently have on their defense, devoid of consistently good talent just about as a whole. The Browns have talent and Quinn will know how to put it to good use.
2. Josh McDaniels
Josh McDaniels’ success in this league is nothing short of immaculate. His work with the Patriots speaks for itself, but don’t forget that this is also the same guy who managed to win a PLAYOFF GAME with TIM TEBOW. That should pretty much end the argument of his viability then and there. McDaniels’ prowess as an offensive coordinator and excellent sample size as a head coach make him a phenomenal choice. Let’s just hope that he wouldn’t dump the team at the last second like he did with Indianapolis.
1. Mike McCarthy
It might not have been the most graceful ending in Green Bay, but you can’t ignore that incredible body of work McCarthy had with the team. He has a Super Bowl ring, several playoff appearances and wins, and he’s an offensive-minded coach. He is doubtlessly the best candidate, bar none, and should be highly considered should the Browns do the right thing by firing Kitchens.
The Lions recently announced head coach Matt Patricia would return for a third season next year. Patricia would’ve probably appeared on this list somewhere if that wasn’t the case.
Just about any offensively-minded coach would likely make for a solid candidate, particularly ones with decent experience as an offensive coordinator for a fairly decent team. If the Browns wanted, going within the division to look at Ravens OC Greg Roman could be an option.
Under absolutely NO CIRCUMSTANCES should the Browns even glimpse at Ron Rivera, who was recently fired by the Panthers. Ron Rivera is the NFL’s poster child for making reckless, stupid mistakes that cost the team he’s with in a major way. Rivera would just be a more experienced, more reckless Freddie Kitchens.