The Cleveland Browns picked Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer in the second round of this year’s draft, the latest development in their ongoing search for a franchise quarterback. That’s been a search fraught with failure, and even includes another former Notre Dame pick, Brady Quinn.
Kizer was named the starter in August, prompting optimistic stories like this, from Cleveland.com:
If all goes as planned, the jersey and t-shirts listing all of the Browns’ starting quarterbacks since 1999 won’t be outdated for a long, long time now that DeShone Kizer has been added.
“This is not just for the moment,” Jackson said on a conference call Sunday to officially announce Kizer as his starter. “We’re going to get with DeShone, (and) ride with him through it all.”
Jackson made it clear that Kizer’s installation as starter No. 27 is for the long haul, not just for the short term. After witnessing his dynamic skillset since the day he arrived, Jackson believes the Browns may have landed their franchise quarterback.
Today, five games and five losses into the season, the Browns have already added another starting quarterback to those t-shirts and jerseys. The team released a statement naming Kevin Hogan the starter, relegating Kizer to the bench:
Kevin Hogan will make his first career NFL start Sunday when the Browns face the Texans, Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson announced Wednesday.
Hogan takes over for rookie DeShone Kizer, who started the team’s first five games. Kizer will serve as the backup to Hogan.
“I’ve made the decision to start Kevin this week,” Jackson said in a statement. “We’ve liked what Kevin has been able to do within our offense when he’s been in there and he will start on Sunday because that’s what we feel is best for our team at this point in time. This does not change the way we feel about DeShone going forward. He has worked extremely hard and still very much has a bright future. Right now, it’s better for him and his development to back up Kevin.”
So, what changed in between? Well, for one thing, Kizer has certainly not been effective. The rookie started the season on a decent note, going 20/30 for 222 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for another score, in a close loss to Pittsburgh. Things have generally trended down from there, though, leading to Kizer being pulled from this past Sunday’s game against the Jets after going 8-17 for 87 yards, a pick, and a fumble.
In short, he played like a rookie quarterback who isn’t a finished product. This shouldn’t be a surprise! Everyone agreed that’s what Kizer was; even those who thought he should have gone higher in the draft were basing that opinion more on a long-range ceiling than an ability to immediately help an NFL team win games. Hell, Brian Kelly said as much in his widely ridiculed critique of Kizer’s decision to turn pro early:
“I think he has all the tools but needs more time,” Kelly said during his interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “DeShone Kizer should still be in college,” according to Kelly.
(It’s important to note that while Kelly may have been correct, no one had an issue with his analysis. Rather, they took issue with a college coach going on the record with comments that could hurt a former player’s draft stock seemingly out of spite.)
The Browns, though, weren’t willing to wait. Rather than signing veteran quarterback cover, or even sticking with Brock Osweiler, the world’s foremost sacrificial lamb, the team named Kizer the starter on the strength of a few preseason performances. Over those three preseason appearances, Kizer went 25-49 for 351 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Cleveland decided that was enough, cut Osweiler (whose hilarious contract they’d taken on in order to acquire an extra 2018 second-rounder), and rode into the regular season with a quarterback group consisting of Kizer, Hogan, and Cody Kessler. The Bears, faced with a similar situation, signed both Mike Glennon (to an absurdly high contract) and Mark Sanchez, and that was before they drafted Mitch Trubisky. And after the draft, the Bears immediately ruled out Trubisky starting right away. Now, did they stick with the hilariously ineffective Glennon for too long? Could they have signed a different replacement-level quarterback for nothing and gotten the same results, while still shielding Trubisky were he not ready to play?
Of course! But we’re not talking about the Bears, we’re talking about their inept cousins midwestern cousins. The Bears plan was in place so that if Trubisky wasn’t ready to play right away, their coach (in the business of winning games right now) had another option. Trubisky, and DeShaun Watson in Houston, were both considered much closer to NFL-ready than Kizer, but of the three, Kizer was the player named an immediate starter.
And now, he’s on the bench, despite having performed pretty much as he should have been expected to perform. And that’s not to say making a bad decision and sticking with it is better than adjusting and cutting your losses. But it is to say that the Browns seem to have an aversion to making the right calls at quarterback, and at 0-5, they might even be tempted to take another one next year.
Save some space on the t-shirts.