CLEVELAND — Throughout the 2019 regular season, there has been talk of if first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens was the right man for the job, and those questions grew louder with every loss, reaching a crescendo after Sunday’s 31-15 setback to the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
With only one game remaining in the season and the Browns officially being eliminated from postseason play with their ninth loss of the season, quarterback Baker Mayfield was asked about the possibility of Kitchens getting a second year to lead the franchise and he seemed noncommittal.
“That is not my decision to make, so whatever happens, happens,” Mayfield said. “Moving forward, I know how I am going to handle it getting whatever receiving corps and tight ends we have together in the offseason and making sure we are on the same page so we hit the ground running in the spring -- kind of like I hit on earlier in the week -- to where there is no room to be made up come training camp.
“It is a process, but I am looking forward to this group and seeing what we put together and how we work.”
If Kitchens is not retained, it would mark the second time in six years that a Browns coach did not make it to year two of his contract. Rob Chudzinski, who was dismissed following the 2013 season, was on the job only 11 months before the front office decided to go in a different direction.
Whether or not the organization decides to part ways with Kitchens, who is 6-9 as a head coach heading into this week’s season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Mayfield believes there is no shortage of things the players need to work on for 2020.
“Anytime you have a head coach and you have a losing record, that is the first person everyone points to, but it goes to many more things than just Freddie,” Mayfield said.
“We can all be better in this process. I think that is what it comes down to is there is not one single thing to blame. Just overall, we all have to bring it more and more every day to meet the expectations we set for ourselves.”
With the loss to the Ravens, the Browns were eliminated from playoff contention for the 17th consecutive season, the longest such drought in the National Football League.
In addition to missing the playoffs for the 17th straight time, the Browns will finish the 2019 season with a sub .500 record for the 12th consecutive year. The best the Browns can do record-wise is 7-9 if they beat the Bengals in Cincinnati on Sunday, which would be a half-game worse than the 7-8-1 mark they posted in 2018.
The Browns last finished above .500 when they had a 10-6 record in 2007.
“We set the bar high for ourselves,” Mayfield said. “Our expectations were extremely high, and we didn’t meet that, so that’s the most disappointing thing. In the big-picture mindset, it’s a process to turn around what this once was to where we want to go and where we should be at right now.
“It’s a process. There’s a lot of room for improvement and progress to be made.”