Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from the day after Browns lose to Los Angeles Rams, 20-13 …
1. No changes: Freddie Kitchens is not going to give up play-calling – no matter what anybody thinks.
A day after questionable play-calling helped submarine another home loss, Kitchens admitted he is learning how to handle the dual role of head coach and play-caller on game day.
But he doesn’t need help, thank you very much.
“That’s not even feasible,” he said of giving up play-calling to offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “That’s not being considered, no.”
Not even to see if it would make a difference?
“Not gonna happen,” Kitchens said, shaking his head.
“It’s me. It’s my fault … it’s me. Todd does a great job during the course of the week making sure we stay on task, stay organized, things like that. But when things mess up, it’s going to be me.”
Kitchens reiterated he regrets calling the draw play to Nick Chubb on fourth-and-9 at the Rams’ 40-yard line with 9:19 to play and the Rams ahead, 17-13. And he also regrets not calling one run for Chubb on the four failed tries from the Rams’ 4-yard line at the end of the game and the Rams ahead, 20-13.
One of the big questions surrounding the Browns’ high expectations this year was how Kitchens would handle the dual role of head coach and play-caller on game days. He said it has not been overwhelming to him.
“Not at all. I could elaborate on it more, but it’s not even as much [of a problem] as I thought,” Kitchens said. “That’s kind of a non-issue. I don’t want that ever to be part of the problem. That has nothing to do with me calling better plays, me coming up with a better plan during the week, and us executing a plan. That’s not an issue.”
2. Patience: When Kitchens took over as offensive coordinator for the final eight games last year, the Browns’ offense proceeded to rank fourth in yards per game 395.1), sixth in touchdowns (25) and were especially effective in the red zone (19 touchdowns in 24 trips).
Through three games this year, they are 23rd in yards (330.3), tied for 26th in touchdowns (five), and are 21st in red zone (4 touchdowns in 8 trips).
And this drop-off has come despite the addition of premier receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Monken, an accomplished coordinator at the NFL and college levels.
Kitchens said, “No two teams are ever the same. You can bring the same team back with the same players and play together another year and it won’t be the same. I knew there was going to be growing pains.
“The one thing we’ve done is continue to get better. We’ll be fine. Nobody’s panicking. We’re not panicking. But we also understand the shortcomings we’ve had. I understand the shortcomings I’ve had. And I’m going to get better.”
Kitchens said he learned from the end of the 2018 season in Baltimore – when the Browns failed four times to advance a few yards for a game-winning field goal try. And he believes he learned from the end of the Rams’ game.
“Next time this situation occurs, I’ll be more ready. I’ll put our guys in better situations,” he said.
3. Blockers wanted: From the Rams’ 4, the Browns lined up four consecutive plays in an empty formation with Chubb split wide as a receiver. So there was no pretense about intending to throw. Mayfield had a wide open middle of the field on fourth down but scurried backwards some 15 yards to avoid pressure and never considered tucking the ball down and making a dash for the goal line.
I asked Kitchens if not having a true blocking back – or even a tight end with experience at short-yardage blocking – hampers his play-calls in those situations. They have been destitute in this area since waiving blocking tight end Orson Charles on Aug. 11 and waiving fullback Joe Keridge with an injury designation on Aug. 31.
“We are continuing to look for guys to block,” Kitchens said. “I will say this, I thought we ran the ball very efficiently last night. When you do not have the prototypical fullback, you have to be more imaginative in how you scheme to run the football and I thought we did a good job of running the football last night.
“Are we missing the guy that can lead block? I will always take good football players. Are we missing one? I would not say so. I think we have guys that can do the things that we need to do in our offense. We just need to do them better. I need call better plays. We need to be more efficient on how we go about our business.”
Brownie bits: It turns out the Browns not only lost cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams to hamstring injuries early in Friday’s practice. Safety Sheldrick Redwine went down, also. All within the span of 10 minutes, Kitchens said. “We want to build endurance with our guys,” Kitchens said. “We need to make sure that we are doing that individually and collectively. Still with that, we were coming off a Monday game so that was going through my head. Was it coming off a quasi-short week? Really, Monday night is not really a short week when it happens on the third day of the [practice] week. I have never seen it. I have never seen it so hopefully, I never see it again.” …
Safety Juston Burris was hastily claimed off waivers from the Raiders on Friday when the secondary was further decimated. He had been waived by the Browns on Sept. 1 after nearly making the final roster. “When my coach called me on Friday, he told me I was going to play a lot. I did not know it was going to be that much,” Burris said. Burris wound up playing all 66 snaps on defense and he turned in the big interception of Jared Goff off the deflection by linebacker Joe Schobert with 2:46 to play. “We were fighting so hard. We wanted that. I just wanted to put us in the position to be able to go down there and win it,” he said.
Had the Browns scored the touchdown at the end, Kitchens would have faced the decision of sending the game into overtime with a PAT or trying for two points and the win. He would not disclose what he would have done. “I can not tell you that. You are giving away my secrets for later. We went there last night to win the football game. You can draw your conclusions from there. We went there with the sole [objective of winning],” he said.