Baker Mayfield, teammates applaud hire of Freddie Kitchens

Mayfield credits Kitchens’ “creative mind” for team’s success in 2018

Daryl Ruiter
January 12, 2019 - 1:19 pm

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – As the 2018 season wound down, the impact that Freddie Kitchens had in helping to turn what could’ve been a lost season around was evident.

So was the respect that his players had for him.

It was one of several reasons why general manager John Dorsey made the recommendation to hire Kitchens as the next head coach.

“It was great working with and learning from Freddie last year. He has such a creative mind,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “He creates mismatches and just put guys in position to take advantage of their opportunities. He puts trusts in us as players. He’s the same guy every day. I’m really excited about 2019 and the future of the Cleveland Browns.”

It could be argued that no one player benefitted more last year from the mid-season coaching changes that saw head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley fired on Oct. 29 than Mayfield.

Over the final 8 games under Kitchens Mayfield went 5-3 as a starter and completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 2,254 yards with 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while being sacked just 5 times. Compare that to a 1-4 mark while completing 58.3 percent of his passes for 1,471 yards with 8 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and being sacked 20 times in his first 6 games.

“Freddie really did a great job of working with the offensive players the last half of the year,” Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio said. “He put us in the best position to succeed. He connected well with us as players. He brought energy, competitiveness and leadership. I’m really looking forward to what he can do as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.”

Kitchens, 44, is the fourth head coach hired by the Haslams since buying the team in 2012.

But for the first time since the Browns drafted him in the third round in 2014, team captain and linebacker Christian Kirksey can finally feel positive momentum building.

“I believe in Freddie. I think he’s the right guy to lead this team,” Kirksey said. “He’s a passionate guy and he gets it. I’m excited to see how this team excels to the top.”

After Kitchens took over, Cleveland’s offense led the NFL in yards per play (6.86), tied for the league lead in yards per pass attempt (8.72), were fourth in yards per game (395.1), fourth in passing yards per game (285.9) and the 23.75 points per game ranked 14th.

The Browns averaged 3 more points per game, more yards per game and 8 different receivers caught touchdown passes from Weeks 9-17.

“I’m excited about the opportunity that he has,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “I think this is the direction. We can build on all of things that we did well last year.” 

Kitchens has 20 years of coaching experience – 13 of those in the NFL – but this will be th first time he’ll get to lead his own team.

“I’m looking forward to building on the momentum we gathered in 2018 and powering through the 2019 season and beyond,” linebacker Joe Schobert said. “Freddie is a good man and I can’t wait to see what the new Cleveland Browns have in store.”

The Browns are coming off their best season in over a decade and are already the trendy pick to win the competitive AFC North in 2019. 

It'll be on Kitchens and his players to make it happen.