The Cleveland Browns’ season has been up and down. More specifically, down and up: their first five games have gone loss, win, loss, win, loss.
After the most recent loss, a 31-3 butt-whupping at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night that was a disaster for the offense, head coach Freddie Kitchens is facing questions about his fitness for the job.
‘That’s the easy thing to say’
The Browns named Kitchens as their newest head coach earlier this year, after firing Hue Jackson and finishing the season with Gregg Williams as interim coach.
At this time last year, Kitchens was the Browns’ running backs coach and associate head coach; he had never been a head coach or coordinator at any level. After Jackson’s firing, he was named offensive coordinator, and in a relatively small sample size, did well with last year’s No. 1 pick, Baker Mayfield.
So Kitchens got the job.
But Mayfield has struggled this season, and the Browns aren’t living up to the offseason hype.
On a Tuesday conference call with reporters, Kitchens was asked if he’s in over his head as a head coach.
“No. I wouldn’t say that at all. Of course that could be the narrative, that’s the easy thing to say,” he said. “Look at the tape.”
It’s not clear what Kitchens meant by “look at the tape.” In the loss to San Francisco, Cleveland had just nine first downs and 180 total yards of offense; Mayfield completed eight of 22 passes, had two interceptions, fumbled twice (he lost one) and was sacked four times. Odell Beckham Jr. also lost a fumble.
Seeking better protection, consistency
Kitchens said he’s looking for both consistency and better protection from the offensive line, among other things.
“You’ve got to have the first [win] before you can start being consistent. We had the first one [against the Ravens]. We know what it looks like. We had our opportunities [against the 49ers] and didn’t make the best of it,” he said.
The Browns traded away standout offensive guard Kevin Zeitler in March. That may not be the cause of all of their offensive line issues, but it likely hasn’t helped.
Kitchens pointed to protection issues as part of Mayfield’s struggles.
“There’s a lot that goes into that. Some of it had to do with a lack of protection. Some had to do with a couple bad throws, a couple bad decisions, had some drops. We can’t do those things and play quarterback position at an elite level. If you just want an honest answer, you need to have consistency around you and you have to be consistent yourself,” he said.
But when asked if Cleveland would bring in another offensive lineman, Kitchens said he wants better from the players the Browns have: “The guys we have need to play better. We need to coach them better.”
More from Yahoo Sports: