CLEVELAND — Remember when Freddie Kitchens was supposedly safe barring a disaster ending to the season?
Well, Sunday’s Poseidon Adventure in Cincinnati was just the final feature in a string of Browns matinees that produced a desert hellscape in Arizona and a meltdown against Baltimore.
Three consecutive losses, only one to a winning team. None particularly close, all providing moments when you couldn’t bare to watch.
And now that the most promising season in decades has ended with the Browns 6-10, it looks like it's time for Kitchens to put on that parachute he referenced back when people thought he was the NFL’s answer to Mark Twain and use it the way so many Browns coaches have before him.
You can’t easily justify bringing Kitchens back after the latest loss against a one-win Bengals team, which is not the same as saying the Browns won’t. They are the Browns for a reason, after all.
Other than continuity, the list of reasons to stay the course does not favor his return. How’s that for diplomacy?
Maybe it will count that the Haslams just went the continuity route with Hue Jackson, first ignoring 1-15 and then 0-16. All they did is cost themselves valuable time. Did they learn anything from that?
The Browns social media team tweeted Sunday during the game that for the first time in the club's history, this season produced a 1,000-yard rusher in Nick Chubb and two 1,000-yard receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Nice, I guess, but that tidbit does the head coach no favors. It damns him, in fact.
He went 6-10 with that fire power? How exactly?
Sunday was even more damning for several reasons that go beyond that and the Bengals 1-14 record entering the "contest."
The Browns had 10 men on the field during a Bengals rushing touchdown. It was the kind of mistake we’ve seen so often this year. If it’s not that, it’s needing a delay of game coming out of an opponent’s score and kickoff.
On so many occasions Sunday, tackling for the Browns seemed optional. You might call it arm tackling if arms had been involved.
On the other side of the ball, seeing Beckham finally look like the receiver that was supposed to help Baker Mayfield transform the team and challenge for the playoffs felt more like a gut punch than reason to celebrate.
He made that catch? In that situation? In Game 16? Where was that all season?
Receivers made half-hearted attempts to win routes during Sunday’s 33-23 loss that was only that close because Beckham pulled down that Mayfield pass on fourth-and-20 for a TD. Nick Chubb no doubt would’ve given his usual effort, but his number wasn’t often called (13 carries, 41 yards) .
Mayfield was the kind of mixed bag that doesn’t help Kitchens case. He threw three TD passes but muddled that effort with three interceptions.
The talent is there with him, but he was a huge disappointment in his second season. His work last year was the reason Kitchens turned an offensive coordinator cameo into a lottery win as head coach.
He wouldn’t be the first second-year quarterback to need coaching up. Instead, he regressed (and please don’t tell me it was the all the commercials).
The Browns have lost 10 games or more in 10 of the past 12 seasons, o Kitchens' first-year production isn’t anything unusual. He just happened to do it with better talent than any Browns coach has had in years.
And that’s what will get him in the end, or at least should.