Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens speaks to media during the 2019 NFL Combine at Indianapolis Convention Center.

© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Browns Combine notes: Freddie Kitchens embraces expectations

Kitchens and Todd Monken blending schemes to create new offense and more from his media availability

February 28, 2019
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Daryl Ruiter-Indianapolis, IN (92.3 The Fan) – Times have changed for the Cleveland Browns.

Following their best finish in over a decade that saw them go 7-8-1 in 2018, they don’t have the No. 1 pick in the draft and aren’t looking for a quarterback.

They also are no longer the butt of jokes and the laughingstock of the league.

“The narrative's changing in Cleveland,” Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said Wednesday. “It changed the second part of the year, but it's going to change moving forward, also, that we're in this thing for one reason and one reason only, collaboratively to do the things necessary to put a good product on the field and ultimately to win football games.”

The annual wisecracks lobbed in the Browns’ direction by Combine attendees have been replaced with legitimate questions about what general manager John Dorsey will do to bolster the roster over the next month, will they make the playoffs next season or even win a game in January to advance?

That’s what happens when the perennial cellar dweller of the league manages to win five of their last seven games after firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley eight games into the season.

Cleveland all the sudden is the trendy pick to take over the AFC North in 2019.

“There's a lot of expectations right now, alright, but we want to thrive on those expectations because we are putting those expectations on ourselves and we're not scared to talk about those expectations,” Kitchens said.

Kitchens and the Browns, who have the worst combined record in the NFL since 1999 at 95-224-1, are setting the bar much higher than just ending the longest playoff drought in the league which stands at 16 years and counting.

“We only have one goal here at Cleveland and it's to win the Super Bowl,” Kitchens said. “That's the only goal. There's going to be 31 teams sad every year, there's only one happy team and we want to be that happy team, and why not us?”

Open door – New offensive coordinator Todd Monken left open the possibility of him eventually calling plays for the Browns under Kitchens during his introductory press conference last month, which suits Kitchens just fine.

“I would never want Todd to slam the door,” Kitchens said. “I told him since day one I wanted to hire an offensive coordinator. I didn’t want a guy that was sitting in a chair with some title. I wanted to hire an offensive coordinator and Todd I think is a hell of an offensive coordinator. Ultimately, everybody wants to call plays. That’s just the way we’re doing it right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I have no idea. I may get a speeding ticket heading to the game and he has to. I don’t know.”

Monken has been working with Kitchens over the last month to blend the current offense with the system he has brought from Tampa Bay.

“His offense is our offense and that's one of the things that attracted me to Todd is he wants it to be our offense, just like it's our defense and it's the Cleveland Browns special teams,” Kitchens said. “This is a collaborative effort and I don't know if people believed me or not when I was first hired, but I want coaches with ideas. I don't have all the answers. If I did, I wouldn't need them.”

Kitchens and Monken are expected to incorporate a few concepts Mayfield ran at Oklahoma into the system to take advantage of Mayfield's mobility and playmaking ability.

“Todd brings a lot to the table from the standpoint of experience," Kitchens said. “He's done some different things in the RPO world than we've done, he's done some of the same things that we've done, so that's the process that we're doing right now is getting everything set in stone from the standpoint of what we're going to initially go with and then everything's up for change after that, but once it's in there, it's our offense.”

Robinson returns – The Browns appear set to return their starting five offensive linemen after re-signing left tackle Greg Robinson on Monday.

“Greg was a big boost for our offensive line, everybody knows that,” Kitchens said. “But what I like about Greg the most is the type of competitor he is. And he competes on a day-in, day-out basis and we need players like Greg Robinson to get to where we want to go.”

The Browns allowed just five sacks and a total of nine QB hits over the final eight games of the season – both NFL bests and Robinson shares in the credit for that.

Backup tracker – What the Browns will do behind Baker Mayfield is unclear but don’t dismiss Drew Stanton as the No. 2 QB.

“The quarterback position is just like every other thing, we’re always trying to add and upgrade the position as a whole,” Kitchens said. “But Drew Stanton’s last 16 games that he started -- he didn’t start any last year -- but his last 16 games that he started in the National Football League now, he’s 10-6. So we feel like Drew can play. Drew’s not there to be a secular coach or whatever. Drew can play, so if there’s somebody out there that betters our football team, I’m sure that’s what John and his staff and the coaches will do.”

Perfect fit – Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians didn’t talk with the Browns about the head coaching job prior to Kitchens being hired, but he likes the move.

“He's a leader. He's tough as nails. He's one of the toughest players I ever coached in college, and he's paid his dues,” Arians said. “He's more than ready, and what he did last year I think proved how he can handle offense. And I think his personality will fit Cleveland perfectly.”

Arians, then an analyst for CBS, said that the Browns job would be the only one he’d come out of retirement for. Then he took the job in Tampa Bay.

“That got blown out of proportion a little bit,” Arians said. “I repeated it later, but I was pushing [former Indianapolis Colts coach] Chuck Pagano for the job when I said that. But I love Cleveland, love the fans. When I talked about that job, I was talking about the fans.”

Hello, old friend – As Kitchens left the podium a familiar face was standing nearby – former Browns vice president of player personnel and new Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry.

As the two shook hands Kitchens joked to Berry, “You ready to come back?”

Teaming up – Kitchens is entertaining the thought of potentially holding joint practices during training camp with another team.

“I think if it’s the right situation, a joint practice is very good,” Kitchens said. “It’s all about competitiveness in this league on a day in day out basis and anything that can break up the, I say this very lightly, the monotony of training camp. Training camp is nowhere near, when I got in the league in 2006, it’s not even close to being what it was then. But any time you can add a competitiveness to a practice, that’s a good thing.”

Kitchens hasn’t come close to finalizing plans for camp but stay tuned on this front.