BEREA, Ohio — With Hue Jackson, his stock answer during press conferences was always, “I’ll have to go back and watch the tapes."
With Freddie Kitchens, it's become "execution."
The Browns held a press conference Monday where Kitchens took questions from Cleveland media about the team's woeful 2-6 start, and the rookie Browns head coach said the same word over and over and over.
“We go out every day and try and improve our execution," he said. "We try to play better on Sundays, and in a lot of areas we did play better. We’ve just got to execute when we get into the red zone and we’ve got to execute better in critical situations.”
Red zone woes
The Browns have struggled all season when in scoring position. During Sunday’s game against the Broncos, they drove into the red zone on seven different occasions but only scored a touchdown on one of them.
“When you get into the red zone, the field shrinks. You have to be more precise in everything you do, whether it’s running, blocking, receiving, running routes, throwing, everything,” Kitchens said. “You have to have a better sense of awareness and instincts, so we have to try to get better in those areas.”
When asked if the lack of production from Odell Beckham Jr. might be contributing to issues in the red zone, Kitchens once again blamed execution.
“You look at the red zone and see why are you not successful, and is it the execution or the plays you’re calling? Is it the execution or the people that you’re targeting?” Kitchens said. “It could be a little bit of both, and we evaluated that on a daily and weekly basis.”
Targeting stars like Beckham would be the easy answer, but one Kitchens doesn’t think will always work.
“Sometimes there’s other factors that factor in as far as their coverages go,” Kitchens said.
Safety’s social media threats
Kitchens opted not to discuss the incident involving safety Jermaine Whitehead, who was cut a few hours before the press conference following a Twitter tirade in which he threatened fans and a Cleveland radio host.
“We released a statement last night. I’ll just stand by that statement,” Kitchens said.
Where was Chubb on third down?
When asked why running back Nick Chubb wasn’t on the field and didn’t get the ball on 3rd or 4th-and-short, Kitchens said that they have a lot of different options and chose to run with Dontrell Hilliard and then run a quarterback sneak with Baker Mayfield, neither of which worked.
“It didn’t work, so it’s going to be second-guessed,” Kitchens said.
Many Cleveland fans are worried about dysfunction within the Browns organization. Mayfield has called out the lack of discipline and accountability within the team.
Kitchens addressed the questions surrounding the lack of discipline, in regards to Whitehead, as well as the "Joker" cleats that Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. were forced to change out of at halftime because they violated the league’s uniform standards.
“I didn’t recognize the cleats during the game. I don’t really look at their cleats, but it was brought to my attention that they needed to take the cleats off. I asked them to take the cleats off and they took the cleats off—there’s no dysfunction there,” Kitchens said. “I feel like anytime they have potential to hurt the team then that’s not a good thing, but they didn’t hurt the team. They took their cleats off when they were told to take their cleats off.”
The silver lining
The Browns have not had a great season, and Denver was a game fans had penciled in as a sure win, but Kitchens was able to find some positives from Sunday’s loss while bringing it back to his point of improving execution.
“We didn’t have any penalties on offense, we didn’t turn the ball over so we’re always going to have a chance to win, now we just have to execute better. As far as the execution goes, that goes on a player-by-player basis,” Kitchens said. “It could be this player this time, this player another time. Just, overall, we need to execute better.”
Kitchens is aware that the team has not met expectations but hasn’t lost hope yet.
“We’re starting today. We need to be 1-0 at the end of this week,” Kitchens said. “We want to stay in the moment with this week. These first eight games do not matter. It’s not where we want to be, but it's where we are and that’s what our record is so we have own that. But we also have to recognize the fact that we’ve got a new week this week that we have to prepare or we’re going to be answering and talking about the same things that we were talking about last week.”
Kitchens and his team will work to correct their mistakes before they take on the Buffalo Bills Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, where they will, one hopes, execute better.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.