Browns head coaches since 2013: Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine, Hue Jackson, Gregg Williams, Freddie Kitchens.
Cavs head coaches since 2013: Byron Scott, Mike Brown, David Blatt, Tyronn Lue, Larry Drew, John Beilein.
Indians managers since 2013: Terry Francona.
What’s wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong with this picture is also what’s right with this picture. Depends on your point of view. Obviously, when it comes to the Browns and Cavs, hiring leaders has not exactly been their strong suit.
As Kitchens and Beilein begin their tenures working for two organizations that are among the most impatient, reactionary, knee-jerk franchises in all of the wide world of sports, Francona keeps Franconaing his way to the Hall of Fame.
Managing — leading — comes natural to Francona. He was born to be what he is: one of the best managers in the game, one of the best ever.
Francona was blessed with all the skills necessary to be a world-class leader in an era in sports in which it has never been so difficult to do exactly that.
Leaders in professional sports have never before been pulled in so many different directions, had to deal with so many executive suites filled with so many know-it-all know-nothings, been bombarded by so much information from so many different angles (analytics and old school being only the two biggest) and had more media, both legit and otherwise, to deal with.
They’ve never had more social media-generated fires to put out, more agents questioning the usage and playing time for clients, had to undo more hair-brained, entourage-generated influences on their players, or had more fear of those ever-increasing off-hours phone calls informing them that you-know-who did you’re-not-going-to-believe-what.
And all that’s not even counting managing or coaching the games.
Francona has made it look easy. Most of those who have tried doing it for the Cavs and Browns have made it look hard. Very hard. So much so that, in the span of four months earlier this year, the Browns and Cavs hired new leaders.
Francona this year has his hands full, but he’s got the track record and experience to be able to handle it.
Kitchens and Beilein have no track record at all as head coaches. They will both be in their rookie year as coaches in 2019, and there couldn’t be two more disparate personalities, facing two more contrasting challenges than the ones each will face in his first year on the job.
Start with their names: John and Freddie. Their names alone tell you all you need to know about both men. Beilein looks and talks like a coach. Kitchens looks and talks like a guy named “Freddie.”
Beilein is inheriting a team that resembles what you see when you go down to your basement after your hot water tank has exploded.
Kitchens is inheriting a team that seemingly has an Elvis at every position.
The expectations for Beilein’s team are nonexistent. The Cavs are coming off a 19-win season. So even if Beilein coaches them to a 21-win improvement, they will still have a losing record.
The expectations for Kitchens’ team are for it to win every game by four touchdowns, with the exception of the Super Bowl, where winning by three TDs will do.
Beilein’s team has all the charisma of a clam. Kitchens’ team oozes sexy.
Beilein is coaching a team that three years ago won the NBA title. Kitchens is coaching a team that three years ago won one game.
With its first pick in the draft in 2003, the team Beilein is coaching took LeBron James. With its first pick in the draft in 2003, the team Kitchens is coaching took Jeff Faine.
The biggest challenge for Kitchens this year will be to manage all the egos, all the agendas and all the expectations swirling around his team. Expectations management is a new challenge for the Browns. Normally there are no expectations, except for when the coach will be fired.
This year the expectations are sky-high. So are the egos. The egos, especially in the diva-heavy receivers room, may be Kitchens’ biggest challenge. The quarterback will not be a problem. The Browns, for the first time in forever, have a franchise quarterback.
The Cavs wish they had a franchise quarterback, i.e., point guard. The Cavs wish they had a franchise anything.
In fact, the closer you look at the Cavs and Browns, what you see are mirror images — flipped.
The Browns today are where the Cavs were three years ago: a really good team with a chance to win it all.
The Cavs today are where the Browns were three years ago: a really bad team, with a chance to remain bad.
How well each team performs in its coach’s rookie season will depend on how good Beilein and Kitchens are at Franconaing.
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