Browns' Commitment to Freddie Kitchens Means This Mess Isn't Going Anywhere

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 16, 2019

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 15: Head coach Freddie Kitchens of the Cleveland Browns reacts after a play against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of the NFL football game at State Farm Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Browns 38-24. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

If a report Sunday from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is accurate, and the Browns really plan to keep coach Freddie Kitchens—and Rapoport is excellent, so it's probably dead-on—this will be one of the dumbest things the Browns have ever done. And that's saying something.

The Browns were atomized by the 4-9-1 Cardinals on Sunday, and make no mistake, the game wasn't as close as its 38-24 score. The Browns made quarterback Kyler Murray look like a combination of Steve Young, Lamar Jackson and Eric Dickerson.     

Murray completed 76 percent of his passes, threw for 219 yards and one touchdown and rushed eight times for 56 yards, including one 35-yard run when he looked like he had the Millennium Falcon's nav system and hyperdrive.

The Browns also allowed Kenyan Drake to score four touchdowns. Four.

They gave up 299 yards in the first half and allowed scoring drives of 90, 87 and 67 yards. By the end of the atomization, the Cardinals had 445 yards of offense and 226 yards rushing.

Read that last number again. That was 226 yards rushing. Rushing. R-u-s-h-i-n-g.

Coming into Sunday, Arizona had lost six consecutive games. This is not a team that is supposed to be steamrolling opponents. Even if it does have a bright future.

With Kitchens, the Browns do not.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 15: Head coach Freddie Kitchens of the Cleveland Browns talks with quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Browns during the first half of the NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 15,
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

When asked about his future after the loss, Kitchens told reporters: "I don't care about my future as a Browns coach. I'm gonna show up Monday and do the best job that I can do Monday, and that's tomorrow. That's the only thing I can control."

What we saw from the Browns was what we've seen from them all year under Kitchens: sloppiness, a lack of creative game-planning, not enough effort and confounding mental collapses.

Kitchens has consistently displayed one thing and one thing only: that he's in way over his head. He's man-at-the-bottom-of-Lake Erie over his head.

It is inexplicable that Kitchens would be allowed to return. It's also totally staggering that the Browns would leak this information now. I can't prove they did, but it sure seems like it.

This isn't a call for Kitchens to get fired. It's not what I do. It's just head-scratching to think the Browns are even considering bringing him back.

The most remarkable thing about the way Kitchens' first season as coach has gone isn't even the ineptitude; it's the ineptitude while possessing talent that made this one of the preseason's most-hyped teams in the NFL. It's how he's somehow made one of the most dangerous weapons in the sport, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., average.

Against the Cardinals, Beckham had eight catches for 66 yards. His 59 receptions entering Sunday tie him with Cole Beasley and put him behind players like Calvin Ridley and James White.

This was one of the greatest players in the NFL, and now he's barely beating out Christian Kirk.

And it's not just Beckham. The Browns have the high-level personnel, on both sides of the ball, to be far better than their 6-8 record.

What you're seeing is what happens when a head coach has no idea how to make talent jell and get a team working at maximum efficiency.

It's clear the players either don't listen to Kitchens or, worse, don't care what he says. Those two things may seem the same, but they're not. Not listening is a matter of attention span; not caring what a head coach says is more aggressively disrespectful.

There's little question the latter is happening. You can see it on the field.

This is the 14th game of the year, and the Browns are still making the same type of mistakes they did in the preseason. There are dropped passes, overthrown balls, stupid penalties, bad turnovers and so many confusing play calls. Kitchens seems to have developed no chemistry between Beckham and quarterback Baker Mayfield, as evidenced in the first quarter Sunday when a wide-open Beckham couldn't hold on to a perfect deep ball from Mayfield one play and then two plays later when Mayfield overthrew Beckham and was intercepted.

The players get the blame, too, of course. But, by far, the Browns' lapses are more about the coaching.

Sure, the Browns had a losing culture long before Kitchens, but, again, this year's version has the talent to end that tradition. And Kitchens is keeping them from doing that.

This is a season in which we're seeing the value of coaching all across the NFL. The Steelers are still in the playoff mix despite having a dude named Duck at quarterback—because of Mike Tomlin. Look at New England, San Francisco, Baltimore, Buffalo, New Orleans, Seattle. It's a coaching clinic every week.

In Cleveland, it's a clinic, too, but more like a hospital, where careers go to die. Like Beckham's.

But apparently, it's also a place where bad coaches get to stay.

Amazingly.

      

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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