Cleveland Browns: Why Baker Mayfield had a sophomore slump
Offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens
The Browns did not lose offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens when he was promoted to head coach. Or did they?
Maybe Kitchens does deserve great credit for Mayfield’s development in 2018. The presumption is that his positive influence as offensive coordinator continued as the head coach, but perhaps not. Perhaps though Todd Monken did not call plays, his role in the new offense might have been much more significant than most observers realize, with Kitchens’ role becoming correspondingly smaller, and that might not have been a good thing.
In particular, the addition of Odell Beckham, Jr. signaled a huge shift in the offensive philosophy. As mentioned previously, the Browns almost totally stopped using third and fourth wide receivers in 2019, despite Mayfield being so brilliant at using the additional receivers in 2018.
It could very well be that, as the head coach, Kitchens might have felt pressure to utilize Landry and OBJ to the exclusion of other wide receivers and passed that down to his young quarterback, even if it went against his better judgement as a former offensive coordinator.
Pete Smith of Browns Digest had an excellent article making that case that Mayfield have been trying too hard to get the ball to his big guys, rather than using the total talent on the field. That sort of dysfunction might be placed on head coach Kitchens, even while offensive coordinator Kitchens may have been a very positive influence the previous year. Clearly, although offensive coordinator Kitchens employed trick plays on occasion, they became a calling card for head coach Kitchens.
It will be interesting to see whether Kitchens can one day re-emerge as an offensive coordinator for another team. Perhaps at that time we will learn more about his true talents.
Just because he had a bad experience as head coach does not mean that he is not a good position coach or a good offensive coordinator. But all you have to do is look at the receiving totals for the third and fourth receivers on the 2019 Browns and you can see that something was up, and it was not good despite the high performances of both Landry and OBJ.
So what does all this mean? It means that there was a drop-off in coaching between 2018 and 2019, and perhaps if they can get it fixed, Mayfield may show that 2018 was no fluke.