Welcome to the day after the greatest day in the professional life of Freddie Kitchens.
The Browns’ new head coach probably feels like he’s won the lottery. Has any rookie NFL head coach ever fallen into a sweeter-smelling bed of roses? During his vagabond coaching career, Kitchens has more than paid his dues, waiting patiently for his ship to come in.
Well, it’s finally here, and it’s the Queen Mary.
Somewhere Hue Jackson is grimacing with envy.
General Manager John Dorsey’s ammunition acquisition obsession has become a runaway train, and the main benefactor is Coach Freddie, who must feel like a high school senior who on graduation day finds a brand-new Mercedes sitting in the driveway.
Dorsey has weaponized his rookie coach, who as a former offensive coordinator, knows a lethal armory when he sees one, with a cache of football firearms, and a cast of characters so appealing that the Browns are becoming America’s Team.
All Freddie has to do is not screw it up.
There’s always a catch, right?
Dorsey’s frenetic rebuilding of the Browns’ roster has been as extraordinary as it’s been exhaustive. He’s addressed virtually every position on the field, and moved the needle on all of them.
The coup de are-you-kidding me? was the trade for Odell Beckham Jr., who is to pass catching what Baker Mayfield is to pass throwing. Given the other rebuilding blocks Dorsey has added since bringing some desperately-needed football acumen to what was heretofore the Browns’ Comedy Clubhouse, the expectations for the coming season are suddenly higher than for any Browns season in this century.
All Freddie has to do is not screw it up.
Typically, rookie coaches are handed a pile of mud. Kitchens is being handed a greater-than-state-of-the-art offense with which to compete in today’s offense-dominant NFL. With the arrival of the electric Beckham Jr., the Browns suddenly have playmakers at all the playmaking positions.
Let the fireworks begin.
This does, however, come at a price.
For Coach Freddie, the pilot light on the upcoming season is now blazing, and the pressure to hit the ground running, passing, scoring and preventing touchdowns has increased exponentially.
Coach Kitchens will not get to ease into this season. Not with the Dawg Pound temperature already at a fever pitch. This might be the most anticipated Browns season since you were born.
It’s certainly the most important Browns season for the head coach, because it’s his first season as the head coach, and there aren’t many first-year head coaches who will go into a season with expectations any higher than the one Kitchens is about to experience.
Fortunately, for him and the Browns, Coach Freddie seems to have the right personality to handle what lies ahead. As a former offensive coordinator, he should have no trouble imagining and helping create an offense able to wreak the kind of havoc that Dorsey’s swaggering weaponry should wreak.
But there also are some big personalities in that offense, and that, as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin could tell Kitchens, can sometimes be a problem.
Do the math. There is only one football, and 11 players on offense, six of whom are paid to do something with it. The most important of them all, of course, is Mayfield, whose very existence has been the triggering mechanism for Dorsey’s stunning rebuild. None of this happens if Dorsey doesn’t draft Mayfield No.1 last year, and if Dorsey doesn’t hit it big with that pick. Because rebuilding a team doesn’t begin in earnest until the franchise quarterback is in place, a very basic concept that inexplicably eluded the last several, failed, Browns regimes.
Dorsey got it right with Mayfield, and because he did, the rapid rebuild proceeded, with Dorsey seemingly getting it right on all of his subsequent decisions.
As a result, the Browns are now a national story, for all the right reasons, not for all the wrong ones. How refreshing.
Dorsey’s magic touch will be tested to the fullest with Kitchens. The new head coach seems to have all the right stuff, the tangibles and the intangibles, to halt the streak of so many failed Browns coaches. Part of that is due to the fact that Dorsey clearly has blown out of the water the endless streak of clueless Browns front offices.
When it comes to shopping for football talent, Dorsey has an exceptional track record. Kitchens has no record as a head coach, but there are coaches who have been in the league
10 years who never had a roster comparable to the one Dorsey will provide for Kitchens.
There will be no honeymoon for Coach Freddie. Not with the Browns galloping up on the Super Bowl odds lists featured in the country’s wagering parlors.
But Coach Freddie can rest easy.
The best indication that he will be a success is that he was hand-picked by Dorsey, the man with the golden touch.