BEREA, Ohio — Browns coach Freddie Kitchens fired back Monday at former offensive line coach Bob Wylie, who worked alongside him last season and said over the weekend that Kitchens received too much credit for Cleveland’s second-half turnaround.
“Bob doesn’t wear brown and orange anymore,” Kitchens said. “I had the opportunity to hire Bob. I did not want to.”
During a Saturday interview with CBS Sports Radio, Wylie made stinging remarks about Kitchens, who began 2018 as the Browns’ running backs coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator after eight games and ultimately hired as head coach in January.
Wylie, who was popular with Browns players and fans, said he found out he was fired while in the hospital recovering from a serious leg injury. He former quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese — not Kitchens — deserved the credit for rookie QB Baker Mayfield’s emergence in the second half last season.
Wylie added he felt defensive coordinator Gregg Williams may have been a stronger head coaching candidate, and that Kitchens probably got the job because of his close relationship with Mayfield.
That didn’t sit well with Kitchens, who was not asked about Wylie’s remarks after Saturday’s scrimmage. Following Monday’s 2-hour practice, Kitchens unloaded on his ex-colleague.
“I know Bob Wylie to be a good person and out of respect to his family, I won’t get into any of that because he’s a father, he’s a husband, he’s a granddad,” Kitchens said. “But I would just say this about that whole situation: Bob knows what happened. Bob knows what was going on, and when he was here, he knew everything about it. Listen, Bob wasn’t under contract. He forgot to tell everybody that.
“He had talked about retiring forever, all right? So sometimes when a person says something, they have to be made to feel relevant, OK? Bob’s a good person and I don’t want to lose sight of that. I have too much respect for him as a person.”
However, Kitchens didn’t stop there when he was asked if he was angered by Wylie’s comments.
“I know what happened. He knows what happened and the staff knows what happened,” he said. “Here is the thing that gets lost in the shuffle with all of that. ... I have never worried about any appreciation or asked for any tooting of my horn or anything like that, but we seem to ask for it. What about the players? What did the players do? Did they have anything to do with the turnaround? I really truly feel this game is about the players.
“It is not about me. It is not about Bob. It is not about the staff. Our job is to get them ready to play. It is about them. When do they get their credit? They had to make a conscious decision to turn it around, and they did that.”
Kitchens rebutted Wylie’s contention he was forgotten while hospitalized for nearly four months:
“I went to the hospital to see Bob every week he was in the hospital. I FaceTimed Bob before every game before we went out as a staff just so he would continue to feel a part of it. At what point does Bob realize it was the players and not the coaches that turned it around? Now, that is the last thing I will say about it.”
Kitchens did offer Wylie some praise, saying he “did a hell of a job” but that all credit should go to the Browns for going 5-3 in the second half after coach Hue Jackson was fired to finish 7-8-1.
“I know where the credit needs to be,” Kitchens said. “It needs to be on the players because they made the decision to do it — not Bob, not me, not anybody. Bob did not go out and play a down, the players did.”