Keidel: Freddie Kitchens Can Prove Himself In New Role With Giants

Former Browns Head Coach Hired Landed Tight Ends Job

Jason Keidel
January 28, 2020 - 1:17 pm
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Some of us questioned the wisdom when the Giants hired Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator. He likely feels he should still be the Cowboys head coach, sees this job as a demotion, and is too liked and experienced to be so close to rookie head coach Joe Judge's job. Whenever Judge's judgment is questioned in a big moment, his potential replacement is just a few feet away. 

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But another hire, far less celebrated, has much better optics, if not more prudence. 

We're talking about Freddie Kitchens, believe it or not. The recently fired head coach of the Cleveland Browns is now the Giants’ tight ends coach. It doesn't come with the pay or profile of a coordinator, and his influence on Big Blue will be much smaller than it was on the Bad Browns. But Kitchens will be biblically motivated to prove himself, if not reinvent himself. Kitchens was not only canned but caricatured in Cleveland, portrayed as Baker Mayfield's BFF and John Dorsey's lackey.

Kitchens - who had never been an NFL head coach or coordinator - was seen as a hollow hire by the Browns, someone to coddle the players as much as coach them. So when the team stumbled out to a 2-6 record, it was easier to blame the fledgling coach than the cadre of pricey stars with egos to match their contracts. 

Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

You can't blanket blame or fire an entire team, so Kitchens became the fumbling face of a wholly disappointing season. His fate was sealed by the quasi-criminal assault star edge rusher Myles Garrett perpetrated on Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. Kitchens' apathetic attitude toward the fight - plus the Browns' 6-10 record - felt like proof that he wasn't ready to run an entire team. 

All of which means no one is more focused to get the failed coaching taste out of his mouth than Freddie Kitchens. Out of all the coaches booted out on Black Monday, Kitchens was the most predictable, and perhaps most embarrassing. He was largely viewed as the substitute teacher who let prized pupils, from Odell Beckham Jr. to Mayfield, make a mockery of the classroom. 

Kitchens should also have some tools and talent at his disposal. Evan Engram, who wowed the team and town with his size, speed, and hands in his rookie season, and had a strong sophomore season, had his mail forwarded to the injury report last season, playing just eight games for Big Blue. It should make Engram doubly devoted to the 2020 season.

Adding to a fertile spot on the roster is Kaden Smith, who grabbed three touchdown passes on just 31 receptions. Locally, he landed on our laps with his two-touchdown performance in the 41-35 shootout win over the Redskins. With Saquon Barkley presumably healthy entering the 2020 campaign, it would be nice to have two high-grade tight ends in the rushing attack, or for play-action passing.

And Kitchens will get to see the world through a Big Blue prism, how it feels to work for a blue blood franchise, run mostly by adults. Instead of the ornery Jimmy Haslam and his baseball man Paul DePodesta running point guard for the franchise, he gets John Mara's prudence and patience.  

A tight ends coach won't lead the Giants to the Super Bowl. It's not the sort of seismic move that owns the bold ink. But winning football games starts with smaller moves, smarter moves, and second chances. Like the lifeline Big Blue just tossed to Freddie Kitchens.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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