The notion that someone asked Browns coach Freddie Kitchens whether he’ll give up playcalling duties may have seemed odd in isolation. When considering the full context of Kitchens’ day-after-a-loss-to-the-Rams press conference, it makes a lot of sense.
Kitchens continued to address on Monday the failure to call a single running play with first and goal in the final minute, a seven-point deficit, and all three timeouts.
“I do wish I would have given the ball to Nick [Chubb] one time, but it did not happen,” Kitchens told reporters. “As you move forward, and I have to understand this, I know our coaches understand this and I think our team understands this is that some of these situations are new for me. I understand that, but I also understand that I will get better from it and I understand our team will get better from them. Our team has not been in that situation before, so our team will get better. The next time that arises, we will be better because of it. The thing I want to stress to everyone is we are building this thing.”
That’s fine, but let’s be fair. Is it really that hard for someone who has spent his entire adult life coaching football to realize that it may be a good idea to call a running play during that specific sequence? The entirety of my own playcalling experience comes from playing Madden, but if you give me the ball first and goal down seven with less than a minute and three timeouts, I’ll know that it makes sense to consider running the ball at least once.
“We are not panicking, but we also understand the shortcomings we have had,” Kitchens said. “I understand the shortcomings that I have had. I am going to get it better. Our team is going to get better.”
Still, should Kitchens really be a work in progress as a playcaller? He’s an NFL head coach, and he called plays for half of the season in 2018.
What’s new for Kitchens is the task of thinking about the next play while also keeping in mind the bigger picture of when to call timeouts and otherwise manage the game. And if Kitchens is struggling to balance those micro and macro concepts (he wouldn’t be the first), it makes sense to consider delegating the playcalling to offensive coordinator Todd Monken. That’s why Kitchens was asked the question.
“You can write that if you want to, but that is not even feasible,” Kitchens said in response. “That is not being considered. No, it is not.”
Kitchens was asked later whether he’d have Monken call plays for a stretch in order “to see if things improve and create a sense of urgency.”
“It is not going to happen,” Kitchens said.
Then came the last question on the topic: Can Kitchens and Monken collaborate on playcalling?
“It is me,” Kitchens said. “It is my fault. No, it is me. Todd does a great job during the course of the week of making sure we stay on task, we stay organized and all that kind of stuff. When things mess up, it is going to be me.”
That’s fine, but if/when things mess up enough regarding playcalling, it will be Kitchens who ends up out the door.