By all accounts, the Browns’ beefed-up management and coaching are far superior to what the organization had for the 2019 season. Browns fans should be stoked to have Andrew Berry at GM and Kevin Stefanski at head coach. I certainly am. But we also have to keep in mind that Stefanski is a rookie, just like Freddie Kitchens was last year.
Now, you are probably thinking that I am a maniac for even mentioning Kitchens in the same sentence as Stefanski, and you might be right, but hear me out.
Like Stefanski, Kitchens was seen as a rising-star when he was named head coach of the Browns. But once Kitchens had the reigns, a personality flaw reared its ugly head. Perhaps like me, you were baffled when Dontrell Hilliard scored the first touchdown of the season against the Titans:
Dontrell Hilliard is IN FOR SIX!
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 8, 2019
Why didn’t Nick Chubb get the carry? Nothing against Hilliard, but Chubb is the man, no? This had me baffled for a long time – until later in the season when we saw Kitchens sidelining other fan-favorites like Rashard Higgins and David Njoku. Browns fans were also positively drooling to see Kareem Hunt in the same backfield with Chubb after Hunt came off of his suspension. But after the first few games with Hunt ready to play, fans were disappointment to see him standing on the sidelines for way too many plays.
And perhaps worst of all, when Chubb was battling with Derick Henry for the rushing title, Kitchens gave Chubb a season-low 13 carries in the final game against the Bengals allowing Henry to take the title. It’s hard to see that as anything but pure maliciousness. At the time, everybody knew Freddie was going to be fired, and none of players were sticking up for him – except Chubb. Chubb stated flat-out that he supported the coach: “I like Freddie, he’s my guy,” and that tells me that he really wanted that title, but Kitchens stabbed him, and his fans, in the back.
What was Kitchens’ thinking when he put Hilliard in for that first touchdown? Maybe something like this:
“I am the star of this team, and it makes no difference if it is Chubb or Hilliard carrying the ball. It is my genius play-calling that scores the touchdown, not a mere player.”
Who could have predicted that Kitchens would flat-out persecute the players who contributed to the magic of the second half of the 2018 season?
Because Kitchens was a rookie.
Hence my concern for Stefanski who has never served as a head coach – even for a Pop Warner team. Will some fatal personality flaw of Stefanski’s come into view once the season begins? I don’t think so, but head-coaching in the NFL is a rather challenging job. So, fans should be vigilant, watching the coach just as intently as Jedrick Wills trying to learn his new position. By all means, raise your voice if you see something that doesn’t seem quite right.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a minor-league system where NFL teams could train-up coaches? And a combine for coaches? And a draft?