Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Freddie Kitchens has a lot on his plate as a first-time coach taking over a Browns team with lofty expectations. And “lofty” is an understatement.
Now, Kitchens has been gifted plenty of assets to be the man to take the Browns into a new era of winning – foremost being a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield. The roster is loaded at just about every position group, particularly on offense.
There are some questions, of course, but there isn’t a Browns coach in 30 years who has been blessed with so much roster talent.
But Odell Beckham Jr. poses a unique challenge for Kitchens.
Beckham is an elite talent, but a mercurial personality. He can be the player to put the Browns over the top or, quite frankly, the volatile personality to upset the apple cart.
“He comes with stuff,” said Giants radio analyst Carl Banks in an appearance on the Really Big Show on 850 WKNR.
Banks is a former New York Giants linebacker great and Bill Belichick-era Cleveland Brown. In his role as analyst on Giants radio broadcasts, he knows Beckham well.
“It’s not bad stuff,” Banks said. “But it’s just stuff, because people want to talk about him.”
The Parcells tree: Banks is one of those lucky players who played for Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick – two of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL. Banks was asked how Parcells or Belichick would deal with Beckham.
“You have to chart your course,” Banks said. “A great player wants to be coached. He wants to be held accountable and you can’t soft-shoe it. He’s a great kid. He wants to be coached.
“I think that’s what Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick would do. But they will chart the course and say, ‘Here’s what I expect of you.’ You’ll know what the parameters are, and if you’re not within those parameters, you’re gonna hear about it from those guys.
“You can’t be ambiguous. You’ve got to be very clear. ‘Here are the parameters. ‘You’re here for this reason. This is what we expect of you. Here’s how you can help us.’ And he’ll buy into it 100 percent because that’s all he wants to do.”
The good news is that Kitchens qualifies as a Parcells disciple. Kitchens worked only one year under Parcells, as tight ends coach with the Dallas Cowboys in 2006, but that’s enough to be considered one of “Parcells’ guys.”
Parcells has great influence over his “guys.” He and Kitchens talk. Kitchens quotes Parcells often.
Rabbit ears: Banks is a fan of Beckham. He admits he is a unique player and personality that requires special attention from a coach.
“Yes, he can be high maintenance,” Banks said. “But it will not stress your team if the course is set and everybody has a clear understanding of the expectation.
“Now, he’s a kid … he’s emotional, he’s gonna give you everything he has, and he’s gonna be the best teammate he can be. But there is stuff.
“He’s emotional sometimes. But I think that comes from him having rabbit ears. You can’t listen to everything people say about you. You can’t fight every [commentator] in the world. Because they’re gonna say what they want to say because it’s good for business.
“But he will bring some stuff to his team, and it’s unintended. Freddie, during his presser [last week], he’s answering 15 questions about whether guys should be there when it’s collectively bargained that he doesn’t [have to be in attendance].
“There’ll be times, I guarantee you, that during a season somebody’s gonna look at Odell’s body language and they’re gonna say, ‘Well, he’s not happy,’ and there’ll be seven other guys that will have to answer that question.
“This is what comes with a player of that magnitude. He brings some of that stuff on himself. And he’ll admit it. He’s not proud of some of that stuff. I’m not a blind defender of Odell Beckham. But I tell you, his good outweighs the bad.”
Among Kitchens’ many tasks this year is to have the good in Beckham overshadow the bad.
Listen to the full interview with Carl Banks on thelandonedemand.com.