In many ways, it was long overdue. In his first stint as a head coach in the NFL, Kitchens showed a lack of ability to control his locker room and get a consistent performance out of his team on the field.
“There were just opportunities in games where, on the outside, we could have taken advantage of teams’ weaknesses and we didn’t,” Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry told reporters on Monday following the firing. “We just didn’t really know what the plan was or what we were trying to do. I don’t think we ever really found our identity.”
Baker Mayfield Regressed Under Freddie Kitchens
Kitchens was brought in primarily for his offensive mind and how Baker Mayfield performed as a rookie under his guidance in the second half of the 2018 season. However, even that failed to be a positive.
Mayfield will finished his sophomore season in the NFL with 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
“It was a different year for me,” Mayfield told reporters after the loss to the Bengals. “Definitely didn’t have it all figured out. A lot of learning lessons, life lessons for me. I’m going to come back a different animal come spring time.”
Before the firing, Mayfield seemed to back his head coach.
“He truly cares about the players and putting them in the best position to win. It’s not an ego thing to him,” Mayfield told reporters. “He wants us to be successful. Whatever happens, happens and we roll with the punches, attack next year.”
Dez Bryant Blames Baker Mayfield for Firing of Kitchens
Dez Bryant — a former All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys — believes the regression by Mayfield and the lack of offensive success was not Kitchens’ fault at all. Bryant thinks it was on Mayfield.
“Baker mayfield plays the biggest part in this…had a stud cast around him under performed and got out performed by somebody he talked down on Danny dimes… big mouth and being a one read QB not going to cut it.. kitchens put the game in his players hands.”
In the line about “Danny Dimes,” Bryant is referring to a story from the preseason where Mayfield was quoted saying that he couldn’t believe the Giants took Daniel Jones.
It should be noted that Bryant is an Oklahoma State alum, while Mayfield won the Heisman at Oklahoma. That could be why the outspoken pass-catcher felt extra incentive to speak up on his opinion.
Mayfield also made himself a target with his outspoken personality and bevy of commercials. Bryant isn’t the first and won’t be the last to criticize Mayfield.
Along with Baker, the Browns have some big personalities in the locker room. Players have stressed a need for “leadership” from their next head coach and that could go a long way in bringing renewed focus and cohesiveness to the offense with everyone clicking on the same page.
It also didn’t help that Mayfield’s two primary targets — Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham — were less than 100% all season, despite both surpassing the 1,000-yard mark. If the Browns run it back with all of the same pieces, Mayfield will have a chance at redemption to prove all the critics wrong.