CLEVELAND — Freddie Kitchens was fired after one stormy, discouraging season as Browns coach.
This weekend he'll get a shot at some personal payback.
Kitchens will call plays for New York on Sunday night against Cleveland after Giants offensive co-ordinator Jason Garrett tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Garrett will consult remotely with Kitchens, who still isn't sure which quarterback he'll be working with.
Giants starting QB Daniel Jones is dealing with two leg injuries, and if he can't play, backup Colt McCoy, who started 21 games for the Browns from 2010-13, will start against his former team. The decision on a starter probably won't be made until Saturday.
As for Kitchens, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski isn’t expecting the Giants to do much differently.
“First of all, I hope Coach Garrett is feeling OK,” Stefanski said opening his Zoom call. "I do not think it changes much. They have an offensive philosophy that they believe in. They have a system. We have plenty of games worth of what that system looks like.
"I do not think it changes much, regardless of who is calling plays on Sunday night.”
Maybe not. But the Kitchens and McCoy situations are interesting subplots for a matchup that already has high stakes for the Giants (5-8) and Browns (9-4), both pushing to make the playoffs.
Giants coach Joe Judge said Kitchens was the obvious choice to assume Garrett's role as play-caller based on his experience.
He's not worried about Kitchens' history with the Browns affecting his decision-making.
“I have no apprehension of putting Freddie in there,” Judge said. "Just because of familiarity with the team, to me it would be more of a strength than anything else. I think everyone here is professional. Everybody has some kind of familiarity with the players you’ve coached, coaches you’ve worked for previous organizations or you’ve worked at.
"It’s a small league and that’s just the nature of it. So, look, when the ball kicks off, you kind of tune out some the outside noise and you get tunnel in there and it’s just a game.”
Kitchens has been coaching New York's tight ends this season. But it was innovative play-calling when he was elevated during the 2018 season from running backs coach to interim co-ordinator that helped him get Cleveland's coaching gig.
At the time of his hiring, he was a popular choice as owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam turned to the former Alabama quarterback, who endeared himself to Cleveland fans with his straight forward approach, Southern drawl, connection to Browns QB Baker Mayfield and aggressive play-calling.
But a 2019 season that began with massive expectations — and talk of playoffs — quickly fizzled as the Browns underachieved, finished 6-10 and Kitchens was added to the long list of Cleveland coaching failures.
Kitchens will be facing a Browns defence that has given up 80 points in the past two games, 82 if you count the safety Cleveland gave up while trying a series of laterals in the final seconds of Monday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Browns defensive co-ordinator Joe Woods said Kitchens taking over really doesn't impact his pregame preparation.
“They have a formula,” Woods said. "They have been on a nice little winning streak and playing well. They have a formula offensively, and they are going to stay with that. I will probably go back and just take a peek just to see what is there. I think with what they are doing, they have had a lot of success and I think it will stay pretty much the same.”
NOTES: Stefanski said CB Denzel Ward looked good in his return to practice after missing the past three games with a calf strain. ... Starting RG Wyatt Teller (ankle) didn't practice for the second day in a row, and Stefanski said the team will monitor his progress over the next few days. ... Special teams co-ordinator Mike Priefer defended the team's decision not to try and ice Ravens K Justin Tucker before he made a 55-yard field goal with 2 seconds left. “It is Justin Tucker,” he said. “It would not have done anything.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed.
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Tom Withers, The Associated Press