Throughout his press conference Wednesday, Browns general manager John Dorsey repeatedly praised Freddie Kitchens, who has provided a steady hand and open mind while leading Cleveland’s offense.
Kitchens, who took over as offensive coordinator in the wake of Todd Haley’s dismissal, was put in a tough spot. The first-time play-caller hasn’t blinked, and the Browns offense has put together two of its best performances of the season under his watch.
“Freddie Kitchens has done a really nice job of putting the game plan together and then on gameday actually executing that gameplan,” Dorsey said. “It kind of reflects in the numbers.
“I think Freddie has done a heck of a job.”
In the three weeks before Kitchens took over, the Browns offense was in a tailspin. The unit cracked 20 points just once and averaged just 286 yards per game. After an impressive start to his NFL career, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield was struggling.
With Kitchens in command of the offense in a loss to the Chiefs and an impressive win Sunday over the Falcons, Cleveland’s offense has posted seven touchdowns and averaged 407.5 yards. Running backs Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb have seen their roles and subsequent impact greatly expand. Mayfield has completed nearly 75 percent of his passes for 513 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. In Sunday’s game, Mayfield set an NFL rookie record by posting a quarterback rating of 151.3 in a performance that saw him complete every pass he threw in the first half, finish with 216 yards and three touchdowns and didn’t take a sack or throw an interception.
“I think what he has done is he has kind of, ‘OK, what are the strengths of this [team]?’” Dorsey said. “What any good coordinator does is say ‘where are my playmakers? Where are my strengths on this team?’ Then he begins to distribute the ball to their hands. Then all of a sudden from the quarterback position, ‘what does he do well?’ Then he puts him in a position to achieve success.”
The terminology and overall scheme of the offense hasn’t changed. Mayfield said Kitchens has hammered away at communication and crowdsourced players as he draws up his game plans.
Clearly, Mayfield and Kitchens have hit it off.
“Freddie and Baker have to have that same kind of synergy, and it will only continue to get better,” coach Gregg Williams said. “Both of their styles and both of their personalities, they respect each other. They both understand each other. When that respect is well enough, maybe they might even like each other later on, but there has to be a respect of those and us together with coaches and players that we both are on the same page and we know what we are doing for things to grow.
“I think Freddie and Baker are doing a great job with that.”
Dorsey had reasons to be optimistic when Kitchens took over. He liked how Kitchens handled the role in Cleveland’s preseason finale at Detroit and had talked to enough coaches and coordinators around the league to know the offense would be in good hands with Kitchens, a former quarterback at Alabama and longtime NFL assistant.
“You get a sense of he played the position, he has seen it, he understands from a quarterback’s lens exactly what needs to be orchestrated,” Dorsey said. “And he has learned from some pretty good guys, too.”