As a society, we judge people. We make decisions early on as to a person’s abilities, work habits, personality, level of kindness, how likely they are to succeed, how much we want to be around them and many, many other things. It’s not fair. It takes time to get to know a person. Judgments based on small sample sizes are historically incorrect in most cases. With that being said, I have seen enough of Browns Head Coach Freddie Kitchens to confidently say that he will be a great NFL head coach.
The Cleveland Browns really went out on a limb in many ways by letting Interim Head Coach Gregg Williams leave the building. Williams’ fiery personality seemed to be a natural fit for a Baker Mayfield-led team. His winning record (5-3) was also the first such for a Browns head coach since Marty Schottenheimer’s (44-27). Schottenheimer left the Browns following the 1988 season. That’s a span of 30 years, folks. The Browns really had to feel they had something special in waiting in order to move on from Williams.
Freddie Kitchens is a man who manifests much more than meets the eye; a man upon whom early judgments should not be cast. If you believe you’re seeing a simple country boy who is happy go lucky, you’d be partially correct. From the words that have come out of Freddie’s mouth, it’s clear that he thinks everything through. He lives life in an almost philosophical way and cares deeply for those around him.
Some of the things Kitchens said during his introductory press conference demonstrated that he is a man with a tremendous grasp on the meaning of life and understands how to build and maintain relationships.
“Everything I am about as a coach is building relationships. I learned a long time ago that this is a people business. People tend to forget what goes on to get you to the field. Between the meeting rooms, the practice field and ultimately to the game field, there has to be conversation. It has to be real-life conversation, because a lot of times, football is not everyone’s life all of the time. So you better get to know the person.” “I am invested in people not just players.”
Nick Saban was recently asked about Freddie Kitchens during an appearance on “Up to the Minute.”
“Freddie knows how important it is to be knowledgeable because that knowledge is what helps you create good relationships and trust with your players.”
When Todd Monken was introduced as the Browns offensive coordinator, he was asked why he chose Cleveland even though he will not be calling the plays.
“I’ve always chosen places based on the people and the opportunity to win.”
Freddie Kitchens the man, relationship-builder, psychologist and life coach is impressive and someone who people want to be around and learn from. Don’t let that detract from the fact that the Browns head coach is also a brilliant offensive mind and great play caller.
The Browns offense shifted to another plane when Kitchens took over play calling in the wake of the firings of Hue Jackson and former offensive coordinator Todd Haley. It wasn’t just better because Baker Mayfield started finding a groove. It was better in almost every conceivable way due to changes made by Kitchens and incredible play by the players.
The Browns were best in the NFL in yards per play under Kitchens, distributed the ball widely in the passing game, saw Baker Mayfield’s efficiency increase and most importantly were best in the league in sacks allowed and pressures allowed. We saw innovative plays from the offense like the full house backfield and the fake flip by Mayfield. This Browns team is one that won’t have to trick people to score points, but don’t look for Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken to go with bland formations or three rushes up the middle very often. Innovation is in Freddie’s soul.
In Freddie Kitchens, you have a man who is going to put his relationships with his players on par with what’s happening in the building. He’s always going to put the team ahead of the individual and he will never stop thinking of ways to utilize the talent on the roster. People and coaches want to be around Freddie Kitchens and they respect him as a man and a football coach. Finally, you won’t ever see a “deer in the headlights” moment from Kitchens at a press conference. This man is prepared for this position. He’s paid his dues and deserves this shot. Of course, teaming up with GM John Dorsey is quite fortunate timing for Kitchens. It puts him in a place to be the great head coach that he has always been destined to be.