Whether he's an awful coach, an unlucky one, learning on the job or all three, the bottom line when it comes to Freddie Kitchens and the Cleveland Browns is this - They must win this week against the Denver Broncos and they must win seven of their remaining nine games. Making the playoffs has always been the bar for this season. Not making it would be a disappointment considering the talent, the schedule and everything else. A winning record, especially with what it would require would make a compelling argument to keep going with the coaching staff as it currently stands, believe it can build into something.
The schedule gets easier and it starts with a Broncos team that is going to be playing their third string quarterback, which helps. Nevertheless, simply having more talent than opponents won't be enough to win seven of these next nine. They also won't be able to simply get lucky enough to do it either. They will be forced to make real improvements when it comes to turnovers and penalties in order to get there. It will require them to be a smarter, more consistent football team.
That would show the roster is clearly willing to fight for Kitchens and this coaching staff by making meaningful changes to improve; that they have truly bought in. The players seem to like Kitchens well enough. They seem to want good things to happen for him. To this point, they haven't shown a willingness to change themselves to truly fight for them or each other for that matter.
Seven games into the season, the Browns haven't really looked like a team. Particularly on offense, it's been disjointed and it feels like a bunch of individuals lining up like they chose up sides right before the game started, always feeling each other out. Some of this is as a result of suspensions and injuries.
Baker Mayfield spent much of his offseason throwing to Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway and David Njoku. Higgins missed five weeks with an injured knee, Callaway was suspended and Njoku has been on injured reserve. Two of them are back and the combination of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry have been active for every game. These last nine games, it needs to look like it.
Winning seven of nine would also suggest Kitchens is competent enough to be an NFL head coach. He will still likely be a work in progress, still learning on the job, but he wouldn't be the buffoon that was on the sidelines facing off against the New England Patriots.
No more excuses, moral victories or blaming referees. No more talk about what the team needs to do to win. It's time to go out and do it. Win. Win at least seven of the remaining nine games.