OPINION: The Baker gets a new Kitchen

Sean Blevins headshot

Sean Blevins

The Browns are finally in a great position to succeed. Second-year GM John Dorsey has done an amazing job so far at turning this Browns team around. I was very optimistic when the Browns hired Dorsey, and it’s clear the move is paying off. The Browns promoted interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens to head coach on Wednesday, who did amazing this year with his development of Baker Mayfield.

Kitchens’ offensive background is part of a growing trend in the NFL, as teams are desperate with trying to find the next Sean McVay. I support this move fully, as the Browns probably would not have been able to keep Kitchens without making him the head coach. That said, the only thing I’ve disagreed with Dorsey about thus far is his inability to retain interim head coach Gregg Williams, as well as offensive line coach Bob Wylie. They both did well in their positions this year for the resurgent Browns, and I’m sad to see them leave. However, I still think it’s safe to say the future is bright in Cleveland.

I will admit, I was a bit skeptical of Mayfield when he was first drafted, but all that skepticism washed away when he beat the Jets in week three in the first game he played after stepping in for a hurt Tyrod Taylor. Mayfield’s energy and charisma is contagious. He’s clearly a game changer and I love his infectious competitiveness. It’s safe to say he’ll be the Browns’ quarterback for the next 10, 15 or even 20 years.

Coming out of college, I personally thought Jets quarterback Sam Darnold would have the better career in the NFL, but it’s clear after this season that Mayfield is superior. He is easily the best quarterback in last year’s draft class, ranking higher than Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. Jackson impressed everyone when he went 6-2 as a starter and led the Ravens to the AFC North title and the playoffs. They fell in the wild-card round to the Chargers and struggled offensively. The only other rookies who played on Mayfield’s level this past season were Giants running back Saquon Barkley (who totaled over 2,000 all-purpose yards) and Colts linebacker Darius Leonard (who was named first-team AP All-Pro.)

Mayfield finished with 3,725 passing yards and  27 touchdowns, setting the record for most passing touchdowns in a season for a rookie despite sitting the first three games of the season. Kitchens has gotten most, if not all, of the credit for Mayfield’s early success, and while he deserves some of the praise, Mayfield would have been special with any competent coordinator. Kitchens will do well over the next five or six seasons, which could set him up for a possible extension. He is unproven as a coach, but he’s taking over a solid team — one that’s a few pieces away from being great.

Kitchens is coming into a great situation where he’s joining a team with a solid roster that could quickly get even better. The Browns have over $80 million in cap space to go along with the 17th pick in the NFL Draft. The Browns won seven games this year, so it is not a stretch to say that 10 is out of reach for next year.

The Browns will make the playoffs next year and could very well win the AFC North, too. I’m not saying the Browns will win the Super Bowl, but with the roster they have built, they can make a splash in the playoffs and win a game or two.

Sean Blevins is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].