CLEVELAND — Baker Mayfield called Hue Jackson "fake" two months ago.

The young quarterback should never have the same complaint about his new head coach.

What you see is what you get with Freddie Kitchens, and he promises that's not going to change now that he's at the helm of the Browns.

When the Browns introduced Kitchens as their new head coach Monday during a news conference at FirstEnergy Stadium, he revealed he'll continue to call the offense's plays without changing the terminology of the playbook despite hiring Todd Monken as offensive coordinator.

He'll also keep calling it like he sees it.

"You have to be authentic in everything you do," Kitchens said. "I know you have to put on a show in certain areas of business or whatever, but that's the great thing about the game of football. You can be authentic and you can be successful in doing that, and you don’t have to change anything. You don’t have to change who you are.

"What is so rewarding about getting the job here with the Cleveland Browns, they are not expecting anything different than what they have had. I can be myself. I don’t have to put on a show, so that's not going to change in front of the team. It kills me with some guys that they think they have to be more head coach-ish, or whatever you call it. I won’t be that. I will be who I am."

Kitchens, 44, is a former University of Alabama quarterback who had been a lesser-known assistant coach for 12½ NFL seasons until he became the Browns' offensive coordinator on Oct. 29 and experienced a meteoric rise.

Now he's one of 32 NFL head coaches, and he isn't going to sell himself short or bite his tongue about his chances to flourish in the role.

"Since 1999, I understand and I relish the fact that there have been more downs than ups," Kitchens said. "But that ends today. I promise you that."

 

Selection process

General Manager John Dorsey and other members of the organization's search committee interviewed seven candidates. The Browns struck a deal with Kitchens on Jan. 9, and the two sides finalized a contract on Saturday to make him the 17th full-time head coach in team history.

"At the end of the process, unanimously, we all felt that Freddie was the right fit for this organization moving forward," Dorsey said.

Kitchens embraced the competition every step of the way.

"I wanted a thorough search," Kitchens said. "I really wanted to compete against everybody that wanted this job.

"I believe that they made the best decision. I believe that they believe that they made the best decision.

"It takes some guts to do what they did, and I appreciate that. I won’t let them down, and all you have to do is sit back and watch because I know that I'm not a popular choice. I understand that, and I don’t care.

"I’m going to reward them. But you know they will look like geniuses if we succeed and when we succeed."

Despite Kitchens considering himself an underdog, he is the people's champion. The vast majority of Browns fans are thrilled with the hire after he guided Mayfield and the entire offense to new heights en route to going 5-3 in the final eight games and finishing 7-8-1 a year after enduring the humiliation of 0-16.

"It drives me crazy that people are happy with 7-8-1. It drives me literally crazy," said Kitchens, who joined the Browns as an assistant less than a year ago, on Jan. 24, 2018. "If I was in a different setting, my vocabulary would demonstrate that. That's not acceptable. Nobody here wants that. We all understand that it was an improvement, but under no circumstances is that ever going to be acceptable. We only have one goal here, and that's to hoist the Lombardi Trophy."

Kitchens said everything the Browns do "will always center around winning the Super Bowl," and he later quipped "hopefully on a podium" when asked what the team will look like at the end of the 2019 season.

 

Painful loss

He was the tight ends coach of the Arizona Cardinals during the 2008 season when they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII.

"That was the most-gut wrenching thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life, and that’s what drives me every day is to get back there and win it," said Kitchens, who survived a life-threatening aortic dissection in 2013.

Kitchens has never been a head coach at any level, so there are natural questions about whether Freddie is ready.

"[Dorsey and ownership] had confidence enough in me that I would figure it out and I would get the job done," Kitchens said. "I promise you this: I will not let them down.

"I didn’t have it figured out as an offensive coordinator, but I had a supporting cast around me to get the answers.

"Sometimes as a coach, you're self-centered and you don’t want to ask for help because that admits weakness. I'm a curious person, and by being curious, you have to have the guts to raise your hand and ask a question, and I will ask questions because it benefits us all."

Remember, Kitchens' appetite for collaboration is one of the main reasons the offense took off under his guidance. It's all part of the experience in which the Browns have invested.

"I have shown that being myself can work," Kitchens said.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.