The Perception of Freddie Kitchens Changing?
The Cleveland Browns have done exactly what they were supposed to do the last three weeks, winning three games against inferior teams in terms of talent at home. Actually going through it, the three game winning streak feels more consequential and a large part of that might be due to how Freddie Kitchens guided the team through the fallout after Myles Garrett's actions that resulted in a season-ending suspension. The players deserve a lot of credit for their focus that week and it was the dreadful Miami Dolphins, but it begs a question: At 5-6 and a little momentum, how should the Browns feel about their head coach?
Kitchens has been regarded by many outside of Cleveland a dead man walking, was even rumored to be on the chopping block after the loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Now, with three wins in a row heading into Pittsburgh with a friendly slate of games for the final five weeks of the season, the Browns have the opportunity to earn their way into the playoffs, which was always the expectation this season.
The offense has been playing better in recent weeks, particularly quarterback Baker Mayfield who has completely turned around his season since the bye. The offense was able to look dominant, putting up 40 for the second time this season in defeating the Dolphins. The flip side is that this was the offense many expected coming out of the gate, finally coming to fruition against a pretty helpless defense.
Kitchens possess a 3-0 record within the division and the more this season progresses, the more impressive the victory in Baltimore against the Ravens becomes. That dominant win was a marquee game for the Browns and Kitchens in the same vein as Eric Mangini beating the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints in the same season.
Likewise, the team was completely dysfunctional taking on the Tennessee Titans and the loss to the Denver Broncos was embarrassing, given the difference in talent and what was at stake.
The turnovers differential is improving, the penalties are going down and the offense is developing an identity. Meanwhile, some playcalls continue to be downright bizarre and the operation getting calls in from the sideline lags at times.
The answer is likely up in the air at this point, pending the results of these last five games. That's a significant improvement for Kitchens, who has at least given himself a shot to secure his job for next year. Winning helps. Sweeping the Pittsburgh Steelers and going 5-1 in the division couldn't hurt. More than anything, the combination of the team improving along with Kitchens changing the perception that he's in over his head and actually a benefit on Sundays will be his best argument. Somehow, Kitchens needs to provide reason to believe he can lead this team to a Super Bowl.