Note to Nick Chubb fantasy owners: Beware of Freddie Kitchens

Court jesters, clowns, slapstick comedians, Forrest Gump … everyone loves a good goof, whether intentional or not. Browns coach Freddie Kitchens hasn’t been extended that courtesy.

From puzzling goal-line strategy to a lack of variety in formations to repetitive play-calling to ruining wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to overseeing a regression from quarterback Baker Mayfield, Kitchens has been the subject of intense criticism. Now, his struggling team welcomes running back Kareem Hunt for his Cleveland debut, after starting the season suspended for a domestic violence incident — which got him jettisoned from the Chiefs last season.

Here’s where it gets tricky: The Browns already have a really good running back in Nick Chubb. He is young, he is explosive, he has performed superbly, he is under contract two more seasons after this one. This is his second year in Kitchens’ offensive system. In short, he is a franchise back locked up for multiple years at a team-friendly price who is performing at a level of excellence.

Hunt is on a one-year deal, meaning he is a free agent after this season. He has taken no live snaps in this offensive system, and he missed some practice time, aside from his suspension, because of a hernia. There is nothing to be gained, short-term or long-term, from disrupting the one thing that is working for the Browns’ offense: the running game.

Freddie Kitchens
Freddie KitchensEPA

So why potentially mess it up with Hunt? Wouldn’t that be foolish? Couldn’t it undercut the confidence of his young, bell-cow back?

Yes, all of those things represent real risks. And to invite those risks might be considered … trying to be nice … we’ll go with questionable. Which is like saying a well-done steak is dry. You could also call it flavorless, tough, unappetizing or a crime committed by the kitchen.

So what did Kitchens mean when he talked this week about how Hunt “definitely will have a role” and hinting at a wishbone offense package in the future? If he really trying to be the Forrest Gump of NFL coaches? Or is he going toward the Simple Jack route of “Tropic Thunder” fame?

Well, it could all be just posturing and gamesmanship. After all, would he really try to install a major offensive shift in midseason? Or maybe, perhaps, he was telling the truth. What if he is taking the Simple Jack approach? What if he does plan to go Full Freddie Kitchens?

Here’s the thing: The Madman tends to hedge against wanton idiocy. Most coaches aren’t that foolish. Most are more calculated, making us want to file these comments in the “misdirection” folder, though with some hesitation based on Kitchens’ sketchy track record.

Nevertheless, we’re keeping Chubb in our lineups. He stays. Perhaps we downgraded him from RB1 to RB2 status, based on the assumption Hunt will get a moderate amount of touches — like most backup or passing-down backs. That isn’t likely to be enough volume for Hunt to generate any fantasy foothold, so he stays on our bench as a Chubb handcuff.

But we’re watching you Kitchens, and we’re hoping you don’t do anything stupid.

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