Hard as it is to believe, Freddie Kitchens didn’t think he was the popular choice for the role of Cleveland Browns head coach.
How he could think that is anyone’s guess.
Freddie Kitchens Is The Right Man For the Job
As quoted by ESPN’s Pat McManamon, Kitchens said,
“It takes some guts to do what they did.” ‘They’ being team owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam. “And I appreciate that. I won’t let them down, and all you have to do is sit back and watch. Because I know that I am not a popular choice. I understand that, and I don’t care.”
Perhaps he didn’t hear the thousands of Browns fans shouting for him to take over this newly-improved organization. Or see the comments filled with hope and excitement from fans who needed to know their team would finally be in good hands.
If the Haslams didn’t think he was the perfect fit for the job, would they really have chosen him to take it?
It’s true that general manager John Dorsey didn’t have Kitchens on his list of potential candidates when he first arrived in Cleveland. But, as a coordinator, Kitchens proved himself in only a few games and he was swiftly put on Dorsey’s list.
His Climb Up the Ladder
Kitchens advanced up the ladder at an explosive rate. A year ago, he was a relatively unknown position coach with the Arizona Cardinals. He was pushed into the Browns interim offensive coordinator role halfway through the season, and here he is now. The new head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Kitchens seem unaware of his impact on the team. He insisted the organization do a compete search for the right man, because he needed to prove he deserved the job. Dorsey obeyed and discussed the role for nine weeks with a search committee before interviewing six other candidates. Dorsey revealed that the committee unanimously concluded that Kitchens was absolutely the man for the job.
Even then, Kitchens was modest.
“I believe that they believe they made the best decision… here, everybody wants to give me the credit. I just get the people going, and they decided what they wanted to be.”
Kitchens humble beginnings make him even more likable and deserving of the job. The son of a factory worker, he was a quarterback at Alabama before selling cars and washing FedEx trucks. While listening to his alma mater football games at work, he was brought to tears, he said. Realizing he “couldn’t live without the game of football”, he began his career at Glenville State College in West Virginia. He then worked at LSU, North Texas and Mississippi State. Finally, he found himself in the NFL, working with the Cardinals.
Kitchens says he’s not a self-promoter and that could be the reason he didn’t make any significant climbs until this season.
Kitchens says he will continue to call plays despite hiring offensive coordinator Todd Monken. This seems the smart thing to do considering the Browns offense had such a big boost during his time as coordinator. The entire unit’s numbers improved, quarterback Baker Mayfield’s being just one example. Mayfield’s completion percentage climbed from 58 to 68 percent, his yards per attempt went from 6.6 to 8.6 and his total QBR surged from 36 to 70.
While the entire Cleveland fanbase is beyond excited about the future of their team, Kitchens isn’t satisfied with their 7-8-1 record.
“It drives me crazy that people are happy with 7-8-1,” he said.
He has but one goal. To win the Super Bowl. His motto?
“The game is fun when you win, and when you win, you have fun.”
It’s a simple yet powerful message.
He made it clear that he will never lose sight of the importance of every person, every job.
“Everybody’s job, no matter how small or how big, it’s all equal… everybody needs to be pulling in the same direction on winning games. Because that’s ultimately what we’re doing.”
Before taking on this monumental role, Kitchens had always questioned himself. “Am I ready or not?”
With the kind of determination, intelligence and drive, he’s ready.