BEREA — Offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens has quarterback Baker Mayfield’s back.
And believes he’s just being real.
“I promise you this, Baker’s not going to blow smoke up anybody’s a–,” Kitchens said Thursday in response to a question about Mayfield calling former Browns coach Hue Jackson “fake” on Instagram. “So if he said it, that’s what he feels, and I’m standing behind Baker Mayfield.
“I don’t care about anybody that doesn’t work in this building and what they think about what he said, all right? What I stand behind is him and these players in this locker room.”
The controversy began when Mayfield was criticized for how he treated Jackson on Sunday in Cincinnati. Mayfield was short with him before and after Cleveland’s 35-20 win then explained that he didn’t like how Jackson took a job on the Bengals staff only 15 days after being fired by the Browns.
“I don’t have a problem with Baker saying anything like that,” Kitchens said. “The guy spoke what he felt to be true. And I don’t know when it became big news to speak the truth, OK? And if that’s what he feels, then he should voice it.
“I mean, ‘Hard Knocks’ is in here, everybody’s looking for a story, well, he’s giving you a story. He’s telling you the truth. Everybody’s wanting an inside look of the truth, well, hell, that’s the truth.”
Kitchens took over as coordinator when Jackson and coordinator Todd Haley were fired Oct. 29. Jackson and Haley were fired, in part, because they didn’t get along, with owner Jimmy Haslam citing “internal discord.”
Kitchens, who was brought to the Browns by Haley, was focused on the backlash Mayfield received.
“So we go down to Cincinnati and arguably one of the biggest wins — I know there’s people in that locker room that have never gotten on a plane to come back here on a road game with a victory, so they didn’t know that feeling until then,” he said. “But suddenly it’s big news if we don’t want to turn it into a kumbaya after the game and turn it into fist-bumps and hugs. I don’t think Baker disrespected anybody on what he said. He spoke what he felt.”
Mayfield gave Jackson quick handshakes before and after the game when Jackson sought him out. Jackson went in for a hug after the game but was rebuffed.
“I didn’t feel like talking,” Mayfield said after the game. “Left Cleveland, goes down to Cincinnati, I don’t know. It’s just somebody that was in our locker room, asking for us to play for him and then goes to a different team we play twice a year.”
Kitchens was adamant in defense of his quarterback.
“At some point, everybody’s going to realize that it doesn’t matter what anybody else says,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what anybody says in Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, nowhere. It’s about what’s said here.
“And more importantly, it’s about our fans, our organization and our locker room most importantly. It’s about what those guys in there feel and when they start believing that, which they do, then you have something. And I think that’s the point we’re getting to.”
Receiver Jarvis Landry has been targeted 17 times in the last three games, catching 11 passes for 102 yards and no touchdowns. Landry, who signed a five-year, $75.5 million contract in April, was targeted at least 10 times in seven of the first eight games.
“I do not want to be one of those guys that came here and got a check and did not earn it,” he said. “I want to earn my check. But at the same time, it is translating into wins. For me, that is what is most important.”
Landry has 60 catches for 630 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games. He expects to get more opportunities over the final five games.
“It will come and I will make the plays when they do,” he said. “With everybody else making plays it’s going to come to a term where defenses are going to have to respect everybody. Then I can get the matchups that I want and make the plays and then we can get to doing the things we want as an offense.”
TRUSTING THE TIDE
Kitchens must feel good about Alabama beating Georgia on Saturday in the SEC title game. He told rookie running back Nick Chubb he could call the plays Sunday against the Texans if the Bulldogs upset the Crimson Tide.
“As if he has no belief that we will win,” said Chubb, who went to Georgia.
Kitchens played quarterback at Alabama in the mid-1990s.
“I changed the play today to Roll Tide so he would not even run the play,” he said of Chubb.
Kitchens said Chubb wouldn’t wager anything, so Kitchens has nothing to win.
“No, just kind of a charity deal there,” Kitchens said.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler will play in his 100th regular-season game Sunday. He’s started all 27 games in two years with the Browns.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “Not a lot of guys get to play that many games in their career. I think it shows how I’ve been able to stay healthy and be on the field, which is invaluable when you’re in this league, and hopefully I get a lot more.”
** Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward (213,201) and punter Britton Colquitt (99,812) lead Pro Bowl fan voting at their positions.
** Center JC Tretter (ankle) and backup offensive lineman Austin Corbett (foot) didn’t practice for the second straight day.