CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – If the Browns had returned from Pittsburgh with a win, maybe we’d be singing a different tune.
But in a season peppered with questions about the team’s discipline, first time head coach Freddie Kitchens’ decision to wear a “Pittsburgh started it” shirt ahead of an emotional game has come into question.
Kitchens was photographed with a fan in the shirt Friday night.
The shirt was printed by a Cleveland company, following the Thursday Night Football brawl at the end of the Browns Steelers game.
DE Myles Garrett clubbed Steelers’ QB Mason Rudolph with a helmet.
Cleveland fans said Mason tried to get at Garrett’s helmet first, and the “Pittsburgh started it” attitude took over Cleveland.
Myles Garrett has been indefinitely suspended and the team was fined $250,000 in what is now the NFL’s biggest ever penalty for an onfield incident.
It leads fans to wonder about why Kitchens would wear a shirt making light of an incident that lost the team’s most valuable defensive player and could have seriously injured another from an opposing team.
Freddie says he would do it again.
“Listen, the t-shirt didn’t have anything to do with us…I wore a t-shirt, I wore a jacket with it. My daughters wanted me to wear the shirt and I’d wear it again. And I put a t-shirt on, I covered it with a jacket and I took a picture with a fan. That was as simple as that.”
Steelers players roasted Kitchens after the game, calling it unprofessional.
“Come on, man. Be professional."
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) December 1, 2019
In an interview with ESPN, left guard Ramon Foster talked about the decision to wear the shirt, saying it put the team in a bad position.
“I know that our coach never would have done anything like that. Why throw gas? When you do something like that, you throw your players in harm’s way. He’s not on the field. You throw your players in harm’s way when you do stuff like that with a vengeance. And I hate that for them.”
“You just don’t see that from upper management. We all got to grow as professionals in some sense. I’m glad Coach T [Mike Tomlin] doesn’t do anything like that,” Foster said.
— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) December 1, 2019
“I thought it was pretty stupid,” Steelers offensive lineman David DeCastro said. “That’s a lot of bulletin-board material. I don’t know why you do that as a coach. I just don’t get that. Of course it’s going to motivate us. What are you thinking? It’s just not smart.”
Sports commentators are mixed.
Nate Burleson on Freddie Kitchens: “IT’S A T-SHIRT. Relax, it’s not that big of a deal.”
Coach Cowher’s reaction to Nate: “OK, Millennial.” pic.twitter.com/oJ7zgqzr8r
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) December 1, 2019
Freddie Kitchens’ T-shirt choice probably won’t impact tomorrow’s game against the Steelers, but it’s not a good look. It’s an unnecessary distraction from a head coach that should be doing everything he can to avoid drama & distractions going into the biggest game of the season
— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) November 30, 2019
Freddie Kitchens has as big a runaway ego as any of his stars. In this cell-cam age, he knew exactly what he was doing when he wore a "Pittsburgh Started It" Tshirt to the movies with his family. He wanted viral attention. He gave the Steelers even more motivation.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) December 1, 2019
Baker Mayfield was asked about the shirt too.
“I don’t really have a comment for that. It’s just a t-shirt. I’ve done much worse.”
For a team that is competing for the most penalties in the NFL this season and riddled with questionable play calls, it might warrant a different look from the head coach.