The Freddie Kitchens era in Cleveland was brief and ignominious. A one-year stint as Browns head coach ended with a 6-10 record in 2019 and Baker Mayfield trending toward bust status.
Appropriately, the Browns fired Kitchens and hired Kevin Stefanski, who has quickly ushered in an era of winning and quality quarterback play, an inconceivable idea along the shores of Lake Erie less than a year ago.
But now, following the COVID diagnosis of Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett that will force him to miss this week's game against the Browns, the man Clevelanders would like to forget returns for a shot at redemption. Kitchens, who is in his first year as the Giants' tight ends coach, will call offensive plays for the Giants as they attempt to keep their fleeting playoff hopes alive and derail the Browns' breakthrough season this week.
It's poetic that Kitchens gets this chance. He wasn't the right man to be the Browns' head coach, but that was as much the front office's fault for hiring him as it was his for failing to rise to the opportunity. It's why John Dorsey was fired as general manager simultaneously with Kitchens. They made their bed together and neither could avoid falling into the lava beneath.
This is Kitchen's opportunity to rise from the ashes. The 5-8 Giants need to win this week to have a chance at the playoffs. To do that, to earn an upset over the 9-4 Browns, they'll need their offense to put up points against a defense giving them out by the bushel. Oh, and they'll likely need to do it with their backup quarterback starting.
The Browns have scored over 40 points in back-to-back games, but their defense has given up 35 and 42 points in each of those games. That's good news for Colt McCoy, who is expected to start at quarterback for the Giants with Daniel Jones dealing with multiple "lower-leg" injuries. It could be great news for Kitchens too, who will try and take advantage of a defense that gives up 28.3 points per game on average, 27th in the NFL. On the flip side, if the Giants falter against this porous defense, that wouldn't reflect positively on Kitchens either. But quite frankly, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The Browns are (likely) one win away from securing their first playoff spot since 2002. If they beat the Giants, it's nearly assured they'll get in. It was a goal Kitchens surely set for them ahead of the disastrous 2019 season. Now he has a chance to spoil their playoff parade less than a year later. I'm sure that's a storyline he's happy to help author.