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NFL Draft

Why Kitchens Calling Plays Isn’t Hidden Advantage For Giants

  • The Draft Network
  • December 18, 2020
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By Jake Arians

There is a big game with playoff implications that’s being played at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night between the 9-4 Cleveland Browns and the 5-8 New York Giants. The Giants are coming off a bad 26-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals and have now placed offensive coordinator Jason Garrett on the COVID-19 list—this will force Garrett to miss the game under the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. In Garrett’s absence, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens will take over the play-calling duties for the Giants this Sunday, when they face the team he, funny enough, was the head coach for last season. 

Is this something or nothing? 

Here are four reasons why there is way too much being made of Kitchens calling plays for the Giants and why it won’t give them any advantage on Sunday. 

First off, we are not talking about one of the league’s premier play-callers here. Kitchens has been an NFL coach on some great staffs for a long time, but an experienced play-caller he is not. He only has less than two years of experience calling plays at any level, taking over the Browns’ offensive coordinator duties in 2018 and the head coach/play-caller role in 2019. While he did have some success in 2018 and that led to him being hired as Cleveland’s head coach, things changed drastically in 2019 with his new offensive staff, playbook, and game planning that led the Browns to a 6-10 record and Kitchens being fired.  

Secondly, saying his familiarity with his former players gives him an advantage is speculation at best. NFL teams always have plenty of turnover from year to year and that is no different with the Browns. Ten players are gone from Kitchens’ 2019 team, along with five players that have opted out of the 2020 season. Include the 11 players added in free agency, along with another six from the draft, and now consider all of the roster moves from the preseason through Week 14… this is a very different team than the one Kitchens coached last season. 

The front office is different, the coaching staff is different, and the schemes are completely different. So to say his familiarity with the players helps him doesn’t make sense without knowing how those players are being used in a very different scheme. All he has to go on is the tape from this season, just like any other coach would. 

Next is the fact that he has only been with this team and offense for 13 games and an abbreviated preseason. This is a new offense for him with players he has not coached before. When you add how different this offseason was with the newness of this scheme and players, there is no way he has mastered Garrett’s offense enough to not have at least some drop off. I’m sure Garrett will be able to help with the game plan, but the nuance and feel of calling plays on Sunday will be all Kitchens.

Lastly and most importantly, we need to remember Daniel Jones (hamstring) isn’t healthy. He was a statue last week against the Arizona Cardinals, who had eight sacks against him. The reports coming out of New York are that the Giants plan on playing Jones again this week. Whether it’s a less than 100% Jones or backup Colt McCoy playing quarterback, the Giants will be under a lot of pressure this Sunday. 

New York’s offensive line has been awful most of the season and was really dominated last week against the Cardinals. The Browns will be bringing one of the league’s best pass-rush duos in Olivier Vernon and Myles Garrett to town to wreak havoc on this Giants line and whoever is playing quarterback. Now add that the Giants had to cancel practice on Thursday because of the COVID-19 situation and you have another obstacle standing in Kitchens and the Giants’ way. 

None of this is a knock on Kitchens, it’s just stating that this is a very difficult situation to manage and thrive in. There aren’t many coaches that would have much success in this situation. In my opinion, too much is being made of the fact that he was the coach in Cleveland last year, and how that alone will lead to success against his former team. I don’t believe that it will.

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