Breaking down the biggest news items from Freddie Kitchens’ official introduction as Browns head coach.
1. Kitchens will continue to call plays
Neither the elevation to head coach nor the announced hiring of Todd Monken as offensive coordinator will affect what Kitchens does on Sundays. He’ll continue to call plays for the Cleveland offense.
That decision made the hiring of Monken even more impressive to Kitchens, who stressed multiple times Monken, who helped navigate the league’s top passing attack in Tampa last season, had his fair share of opportunities around the NFL.
“I told Todd yesterday that I did not want to hire someone and just give them the title of offensive coordinator. I wanted an offensive coordinator that just was not going to call plays,” Kitchens said. “He made a decision based on people. Our decisions here are going to be made on people; what type of person that is, what type of person are you going to be surrounded with? Todd made the decision based on people. He had other opportunities. He came in and made the decision for what he was going to be surrounded with and the environment that is going to be created moving forward.”
Monken spent the past three years with the Buccaneers working under Dirk Koetter, who was fired at the end of the 2018 season. A longtime college assistant with a splash of NFL experience before his time in Tampa Bay, Monken was the head coach at Southern Miss for three seasons before joining the Buccaneers.
2. Kitchens wasn’t on Dorsey’s original list, but his name surfaced ‘early’ in the search
General manager John Dorsey was honest when he was asked if Kitchens’ name was on his list of potential head coaches right after the Browns announced the dismissals of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
No, Kitchens, who had never called plays in the NFL until his Week 9 debut, was not. But it didn’t take long for Kitchens to assert himself as someone Dorsey and the rest of Cleveland’s search committee would want to interview after the season.
Dorsey said the committee met on a regular basis for nine weeks before it embarked on a seven-day stretch in which it interviewed one candidate per day. Kitchens was the last to meet with the group before he was summoned for a second interview the following day. Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski was the only other candidate to receive a second interview.
Kitchens said he wanted the search to be thorough and deep. He liked the competition aspect.
“At the end of the day, he was going to prove that to everybody that guess what, I am your guy,” Dorsey said. “At the end of the day, unanimously, the committee, we went to ownership with the suggestion to have Freddie Kitchens as our next head coach and they embraced it. We cannot thank them enough.”
3. Kitchens isn’t running away from the high expectations
Even before Kitchens took a single question, he made it clear he wouldn’t run away from the high expectations that will hover above the Browns in 2019 and beyond.
“It drives me crazy that people are happy with 7-8-1. It drives me literally crazy,” Kitchens said. “If I was in a different setting, my vocabulary would demonstrate that. That is not acceptable. Nobody here wants that. We all understand that it was an improvement, but under no circumstances is that ever going to be acceptable. We only have one goal here and that is to host the Lombardi Trophy. Everything we do moving forward, if it is going to benefit us moving in that direction we will make that decision.”
4. Kitchens’ ‘vision’ was his top selling point to search committee
Kitchens joked he needed help from his daughters to put together his PowerPoint presentation for the search committee. Clearly, they did a fantastic job giving their dad the best platform to lay out his plan.
Dorsey said it was the “vision” Kitchens showed that was most impressive and set him apart from the other candidates.
“He knows many people in the National Football League – and where we are today in the Cleveland Browns and how even the coaching staff would come together and actually come to Cleveland, Ohio,” Dorsey said. “They understand what it about to happen here under the direction of Freddie Kitchens and that is all you can ask for. You can just feel his passion and his depth of knowledge for this game, and then again his ability to call the game of football. I think that is really important, but it is the unification of bringing us all together.”
5. Kitchens was washing trucks when he realized he wanted to make football his life
Perhaps the best moment in Monday’s press conference came when Kitchens was asked when he decided to make football his life.
A three-year starting quarterback at Alabama, Kitchens was selling cars during the week and washing trucks on the weekend for extra cash. It’s best if he takes the story from there.
“Alabama would be playing, there were no televisions -- this was in a wash bay -- so I’d listen to it on the radio, and it would almost bring me to tears listening to it,” Kitchens said. “I don’t know if I ever wanted to coach, but I knew that I couldn’t live without the game of football.”