Browns coach embraces expectations with OBJ
PHOENIX – As Freddie Kitchens waxed eloquent about all things Cleveland Browns Tuesday morning, the proposition was put to him that the combination of Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. could be dynamite. “I hope so,” Kitchens said without hesitation. “And I hope we blow a lot of things up.”
The quip was true Kitchens. The new Browns coach is quick to make a self-deprecating comment – he deadpanned more than once he is “scared to death” of the Browns playing in primetime — but he also shares the same attitude as his quarterback, that he is in it to win it.
“I don’t mind expectations,” Kitchens said. “I want them.”
Kitchens’ immediate goal is to get Beckham to Cleveland and to get to know him following his acquisition from the Giants on March 12. Though general manager John Dorsey said he expected Beckham for the start of the offseason program on April 1, Kitchens said Beckham will do all he can to be there – leaving out the possibility he may not arrive on day one.
“His life was turned upside down (with the trade),” Kitchens said. “Up until two weeks ago he thought his reporting date was mid-April.”
Beckham’s acquisition put hype and offseason buzz on full boil about the Browns. Kitchens is well aware that the Browns are being talked about as a contender for the AFC North – and even are in the Super Bowl discussion.
“They’re the most talented team in the division; there’s no question about that right now,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who took several questions about the Browns in a session about the Ravens. “We’ll see what that means. I know this: that’s right now. The best team in the division is the team that’s going to win the division. So, we’ll see what the best team is.”
Kitchens said the expectations do not bring pressure. He calls pressure “waking up without a job, having a baby at home to feed, your wife just left you and you have no money in your pocket.”
“That’s real-life pressure,” he said. “The pressure on us is just win or lose. Let’s just go perform the best we can and see what happens.”
He also understands that he will be dealing with several strong personalities on this young team – strong personalities that have a bit of celebrity. He welcomes it, saying the key with Beckham and every other player is earning trust. To that end, he will let the players be themselves.
Ego is fine, he said, as long as the ego is folded into the team.
“It’s never been harder, ever, for these guys to play, perform and succeed because they’re always being critiqued in everything that they do,” Kitchens said. “And at the Cleveland Browns, we want to offer them a safe space, per se, of just doing their work, doing their job, getting to know their teammates, which is gonna build their trust and character within their team. And that’s all we’re going to do.”
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.