Freddie Kitchens Says Browns Are 'Really Close' Amid Uncertainty of Job Security

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IIIDecember 24, 2019

Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Cleveland. The Ravens won 31-15. (AP Photo/David Richard)
David Richard/Associated Press

The 6-9 Cleveland Browns were officially eliminated from the playoffs by losing 31-15 to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but head coach Freddie Kitchens has opted to be optimistic about next season rather than pessimistic about how his year has unfolded.  

Kitchens told reporters Monday he feels the Browns are a lot closer to contention than their record conveys:

"Everybody in this building is pulling toward the same direction, and we're close in a lot of areas now. We're really close. Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle, but we know how close we are, our players understand how close we are and our players understand they can do better and coaches understand how they can do better. Whenever we get those things flipped, it will change. Everybody in this building has been nothing but total support."

The first-year head coach was also asked about his job security beyond this year, which has become a hotter topic as Cleveland has continued to grossly underperform. 

"I'm focused on doing my job right now, and I think that's where [owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam and general manager John Dorsey] want my focus," Kitchens said. "I have not gotten anything but total support from those guys. They want me doing my job, and that's what I am trying to do on an everyday basis."

Browns second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield was also asked Sunday about Kitchens' job security:

Jake Trotter @Jake_Trotter

Baker Mayfield, asked if he thinks changes need to be made including the coaching staff: “That’s not my decision to make, so whatever happens happens...” (added he’ll be focused on getting pass-catchers together in offseason) https://t.co/IcxdSTlvPW

Jake Trotter @Jake_Trotter

Baker, on if Kitchens deserves the blame for the way this season has gone: “It goes to many more things than just Freddie. We can all be better... there’s no one single thing to blame.” https://t.co/bBbTTz64ed

Cleveland's season went off the rails when it lost four straight games from Weeks 5 to 9, landing it in a 2-6 hole. Some factors have been out of Kitchens' control, as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (sports hernia) and Jarvis Landry (hip) have been playing through injuries that could each require offseason surgery. 

However, Beckham and Landry reportedly telling opposing teams to "come get me" falls more directly on Kitchens' shoulders. Both players have denied doing so, though.

"I'm not going anywhere," Beckham said, in part, to reporters last week.

"I would never say nothing like that," Landry echoed. "And I don't even want to talk about it. ... But at the end of the day, don't try to slander my name. If you didn't hear me say it directly, you shouldn't have to be able to report about it."

Another concerning storyline came from Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson, who told reporters following the teams' matchup on Dec. 8 that the Browns are "not really a connected team." 

Lawson added: "They've got a lot of star power, but they just don't...fighting and bickering, all that kind of stuff. That doesn't win football games, no matter how talented you are."

Whatever the reasons are, the Browns have now missed the postseason for the 17th consecutive season and posted their 12th straight losing season in the process. That lack of success on the field presumably matters most to the Haslams and Dorsey, who must decide if Kitchens is the right coach to bring Cleveland to contention.