Black Monday, as they say, passed yesterday into the annals of NFL history. And while it was a relatively quiet round of firing head coaches that have failed to carry their teams on to greatness (or at the very least respectability) there were a few names that stuck out.
One in particular was Freddie Kitchens.
Yes, Freddie Kitchens of the Cleveland Browns who, not so long ago, was hailed as a genius and innovator for coaching QB Baker Mayfield to one of the best rookie seasons ever at the position. Kitchens, who was a cornerstone of the Browns pulling half a win away from achieving a winning record last year.
Yes, Freddie Kitchens, in all his rough-around-the-edges glory is out in Cleveland. Which, considering that at 6-10 the team regressed this year, isn't terribly surprising.
What's most stunning of it all is the talent that the Browns have on their roster. Last April I wrote about the trade of Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Browns from the Giants, and how his pairing with Jarvis Landry made the Cleveland receiving core one of the best in the league. Combine that with the talent in the Cleveland backfield between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and of course at quarterback in Mayfield, and it seemed a sure thing that these Browns would at least compete for NFL relevance, if not actual make a push into the playoffs.
Alas, in true Browns fashion, it was not to be. That was pretty apparent right from the get-go when they lost by 30 to the Tennessee Titans on opening day. And it was apparent again this past Sunday when they got pushed out of at least matching last year's win total by the 2-14 Cincinnati Bengals. In between there's been all sorts of shenanigans, from muffed Mayfield pressers to Myles Garrett bashing Mason Rudolph in the head in a game that Cleveland was winning by double digits.
In short, they were undisciplined, unruly, and most of all unprepared to make the full use of their talents.
Some guessed at this with Kitchens. After all, in a full 8-month span he'd been elevated from running backs coach to offensive coordinator to head coach. And then, drunk with power, Kitchens easily got lost. He did not know where to turn, how to reign a team of personalities that were volatile to say the least, and never got the most out of what GM John Dorsey had put on the field for him.
In short, Freddie Kitchens was not the right man for the job, and so he's out.
Which, frankly is nothing new when it comes to Cleveland. 11 men have held the post of head coach of the Browns since the 1999 reconstitution of the franchise. Kitchens just becomes the latest name in a long, long list of casualties that seemingly has no end.
So, what's next? For the Browns there really is no option but on to next year and any given Sunday. They've slated a slew of interviews for the opening, including former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and brother of current Packers head coach Mike LaFleur.
Whoever they do choose though, must be able to reconcile the differing personalities of a fractious Browns team and move all the talent on that team toward that singular vision.