Will Kitchens Be Under Any Thumbs In 2019?

As Freddie Kitchens waxes openly about leaning on the staff around him – with statements such as “if I can’t get the answers in this building, then we have problems because we have experts in all areas,” it brings pause to wonder where the help will start and where it could end. 

According to a recent statement, Browns general manager John Dorsey appears to have already identified and anointed certain members of the first year bench boss’ staff to advisor status. 

“Whenever you have an experienced staff like that, you can go to Mike Priefer; you can go to James Campen; you can go to Steve Wilks; he can go to Todd Monken. That’s really good experience there,” Dorsey said. “And they’re selfless. And they’re willing to share and say you know what? Maybe this direction. I think that helps eliminate the distraction and clutter for Freddie moving forward and makes us a better oiled machine moving forward.”

At first blush, this sounds like a harmless and feel good way for the second-year general manager to wax about the “collaborative effort” of Kitchens’ support system. 

However, one must first ask the question of why it is so uncommon (or even unheard of) to have someone in senior management elevate certain coaching staff members to advisor status, before a chin strap is even buckled.

Should Kitchens not have the right to get comfortable with who he gets comfortable with? Should he not also have the right to maintain an arm’s length relationship with any and all staff members – building trust and relationship at his pace?

Should an NFL coach not have the right to stand in a solo spotlight for even a few weeks, without his GM already splitting his coaching horsepower into tributaries and factions – before the ink of the contract is truly baked on?

Of course he should. At least in a normal environment. 

Cue the weirdness of the situation…Sorry folks – Freddie Kitchens is an abnormal hire. For every apologist ringing outcries of ‘best coach ever,’ ‘he gets us,’ ‘that’s my coach,’ there still remains one hard and certain fact – Freddie Kitchens has never coached a football team in his life. 

Could it turn out great? Absolutely. Did the Browns make the right decision? Possibly. Could Kitchens end up being a world class coach? For sure. 

If the probability of that is so high, why so much talk about what he doesn’t know, what he needs to know and where he can go when he doesn’t know it? Would it not have been a higher percentage decision to just find someone with a proven portfolio?

That brings the next question; was Freddie Kitchens hired as the coach who would allow the highest likelihood of a free and liquid flow of demands from the owner’s box, to the general manager, to the sidelines? 

Before scoffing (or saying I’m being negative) – I remind you that Jimmy Haslam has been as unsuccessfully meddlesome as any owner in NFL history. 

Unless the oft failed ruler has had a massive shift in approach (which history will say has not happened), one could safely say that collaboration could easily be another way for Haslam to remain disguisedly involved. 

After taking massive PR hits for his latest bumble fest (having his last coach reporting directly to him), Browns fans and the NFL fraternity would have made it incredibly difficult for Haslam to, both, save face and stay procedurally involved in day to days, with his on field staff.

What better way for Haslam, and possibly even Dorsey, to maintain a camouflaged but still inordinate sphere of influence – than to flood the atmosphere with predictions and plans of joyful group efforts and warm and fuzzy cohesive decisions; of times where a young coach can crouch at the knee of kindly, wise and learned masters of their trade (perhaps with a glass of brandy and a freshly stoked stone hearth in the background).

And, why wouldn’t the unquestionably fortunate Kitchens – a man who just became wildly wealthy and famous in one fell swoop – not be singing the praises of the system? Do you expect he would oppose it? Would you? He’s cashing checks, every two weeks, worth more than lots of upper middle class peoples’ houses. 

Two things to keep in mind.

First, this is the Cleveland Browns; an organization headed by, arguably, the most dysfunctional and destructive owner in pro sports. Second, the club has a highly experienced but quite under decorated general manager – one who is on the hunt for a Super Bowl, as a GM, in the worst way. 

If Dorsey’s passion is routed properly, respectfully and humbly toward Kitchens – and he is able to stave off impulsive advances from Haslam to get involved – Kitchens may have a chance to be himself.

If either Dorsey or Haslam oversteps their boundaries, by even a sliver, it could get ugly (sigh…yet again). In another scenario, Kitchens would go on remote control to his superiors and those they disseminate their directions through – a dynamic Browns fans have seen all too many times.

Stay tuned. 


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