Freddie Kitchens hasn't run away from the fact he's never been a head coach. He's embraced it.
Weeks before he was named Cleveland's head coach, Kitchens, then the offensive coordinator, famously said "who the hell is ready to be a head coach" when his potential candidacy was mentioned. At his introductory press conference Monday, Kitchens was reminded of those comments.
"Am I ready or not? I don't know. I mean, were you ready to be a parent?" Kitchens said. "I know this, they had confidence enough in me that I would figure it out and I would get the job done. I promise you this, I will not let them down."
Before Kitchens coaches his first game in September, he'll have spent months and months with a number of staff members who have. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is coming off a season as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken was a head coach for three seasons at Southern Miss. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is entering his 17th NFL season and has been a coordinator since 2006. Assistant head coach James Campen has been coaching in the NFL since 2004.
The list will grow even larger when Kitchens finalizes the hirings on his coaching staff, which has no shortage of experience no matter where you look.
"Whenever you have an experienced staff like that, you can go to Mike Priefer; you can go to James Campen; you can go to Steve Wilks; he can go to Todd Monken. That's really good experience there," general manager John Dorsey said. "And they're selfless. And they're willing to share and say you know what? Maybe this direction. I think that helps eliminate the distraction and clutter for Freddie moving forward and makes us a better oiled machine moving forward."
When Kitchens met and interviewed his assistants, he made one thing clear: He doesn't have all of the answers. He'll rely on them just like they'll rely on him, creating a collaborative, team-first environment.
"This is a collaboration of everything we do," Kitchens said. "There are a lot of things about this job that are going to come up I have no idea. But I have a great support staff and I told them in the interview, 'I am not telling you I have it all figured out.' Hell, I didn't have it figured out as an offensive coordinator, but I had a supporting cast around me to get the answers and if I can't get the answers in this building, then we have problems because we have experts in all areas.
"Sometimes as a coach, you are self-centered and you don't want to ask for help, because that admits weakness. I am a curious person and by being curious, you have to have the guts to raise your hand and ask a question. And I will ask questions, because it benefits us all."
There will be plenty of shoulders to lean on outside of the building, too.
Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells gave Kitchens his first NFL job in 2006 with the Dallas Cowboys. Parcells called Kitchens before he interviewed and after he was officially named head coach. Six-time national champion college football coach Nick Saban, who hired Kitchens as a graduate assistant in 2000, called Kitchens shortly after the news broke.
Kitchens joked he has a "great phone that works most of the time."
"Everybody has people that helped them get to where they are," Kitchens said. "I am not a finished product. I do not think I have made it. You haven't made it. Nobody has made it. I told Baker (Mayfield) this, I told you guys this – you are never going to be a finished product. I am never going to be a finished product as a person or as a coach, but I know how to continue to try and get better and I have the resources to do that."