Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Co-Written by Sam Orazen, Jakob Rosati, and Chi Okare
All a young Baker needed was an upgrade in the Kitchen(s)… ha ha ha… But in all seriousness, Baker Mayfield has and will thrive under new head coach Freddie Kitchens, and here is the reasoning.
SAM: Moving forward, Kitchens is set up very nicely to prove that the prolific offense he guided in the second half of the season wasn’t just a fluke, but rather the payoff of serving as an understudy for so many years. While many want to focus on the improvement of franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield, the entire offense should receive credit for their noticeable improvement, which in large part can be attributed to Kitchens’ past. After finishing his playing career as a quarterback for Alabama in the mid ’90s, Kitchens worked his way up the ranks starting in 1999, while serving as the tight ends and running backs coach at Glenville State, in West Virginia. After a few stops along the way, he moved on to the NFL where he continued coaching tight ends and running backs. Later on, Kitchens had the opportunity to coach quarterbacks in Arizona, under a proven offensive play caller in Bruce Arians. The versatility of Kitchens’ coaching experience will allow him to run and call plays for an offense built around balance. He has never shown in his short tenure to be reliant on just one position group to carry the load. In the nearly five-hundred snaps Kitchens called in the second half of the season, Mayfield threw the ball just under 56 percent of the time. This would have ranked the Browns in the bottom third of the league, (which also contained seven of the twelve playoff teams) had this trend continued over the course of an entire season. With the number of young playmakers such as Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb, receiver Jarvis Landry, and the likelihood of the front office adding to an already stout offensive line, I expect the balanced attack to continue in the near future and improve productivity as they are already accustomed to a Kitchens run offense.
As mentioned, the offense has the playmakers to compete at a high level. In the near future, this group is seemingly only going to get better. Heading into free agency, the only major contributors to Kitchens’ offense with uncertain futures are receivers Rashard Higgins, and Breshad Perriman, both of whom played a significant role in crunch time this season. I fully expect Higgins to return to Cleveland as he is a restricted free agent, and the Browns can match any offer made by other teams. However, Higgins connected well with Mayfield early on in training camp and continued to be one of the more reliable playmakers. Other than the uncertainty of those two, the Browns offense seems to be set. With both young and versatile running backs in Chubb and Duke Johnson, both set to improve upon their productive years, and the offensive line looking to keep Mayfield upright in the manner they did the second half of the season, all arrows point upward for the Browns to carry their success on offense into the 2019 season. Kitchens has shown he has the ability to run a successful offense. Now we just need him to sustain that success into the long term for a Cleveland franchise that so desperately needs stability at its most important position.
JAKOB: Kitchens may have a lack of head coaching experience, but does that take away from his experience coaching other positions? It is reported that Kitchens is widely respected around the league, as he led one of the most creative and red zone efficient offenses down the final stretch of the regular season. It should also be noted, prior to the Cleveland coaching carousel, that Kitchens coached Baker’s best preseason game against Detroit. This is going to be a marriage, whether people like it or not. Heading into next year, the quarterback (Baker Mayfield) that Cleveland has needed for so long will have his preferred coach while working in the same offensive scheme he thrived in. That is a huge plus for the Browns’ offense going forward. I know everyone loved Gregg Williams, but the defense was bottom 5 in just about every statistical category with him at the helm, excluding turnovers. Not a great look. Gregg brought out of this team what was needed to change the culture, and for that, we will love him forever. However, the Browns needed a new coach to heed the face of a new culture in Cleveland. Gregg was also tied to the New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate, which isn’t a great look either.
We now have a coach in Kitchens who seems like he was born for the Dawg Pound, giving him the perfect personality to rock with it. Players rave about how he listens to opinions and always puts others before himself, allowing him to figure out what’s best for the team. His rugged approach and creative play calling ability will add to Cleveland’s unfamiliar positive trend as a lovable, underdog team. Kitchens said he identifies himself with Cleveland and so it’s time for Browns fans to start identifying with him. He isn’t just some other young fool’s gold NFL coach. He is the man that very well could finally help the Browns figure this thing out.
CHI: Another thing to get excited about with Freddie Kitchens at the reigns is his creativity as a coach, as mentioned earlier. The Browns, for the past 15 or so years, have not been the team that is on the cutting edge, running new formations and trying new things that sets a precedent for rest of the league. But under Freddie Kitchens, the Browns ran a number of creative and effective plays that the league took notice of. Here are a couple of examples.
In the last game of the season, the Browns ran this fake jet toss which froze Ravens defenders, allowing Jarvis Landry to open up down the seam. This is something I’ve never seen before.
Against the Panthers, the Browns ran two misdirection handoffs to Jarvis Landry, both which confused the Carolina defense and were effective in a 50+ yard run and a touchdown run.
And against the Bengals, the Browns ran a double reverse, opening up a throwing lane for Jarvis Landry to hit Breshaud Perriman with a strike down the sideline.
With flashes of plays calls like this, it seems that the future Browns, under Kitchens, will be one of those teams that are always being creative and finding new ways to get their playmakers the ball. This is something promising that lies in the future ahead for Browns fans.