When it comes to Cody Kessler, the Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback gearing up for his debut this Sunday, I find myself feeling one of two ways.
First, I find it difficult to feel comfortable about the fact he’s preparing to start literally one week after an internal source claimed nobody within the organization thinks he’s even close to being ready. More than that, though, I just find myself legitimately feeling bad for Kessler.
Sure, you could claim such a belief is unnecessary. Kessler is a professional football player, starting on Sundays is something he’s always had to be ready for. As a result, why would you feel bad for a kid who’s getting that shot?
Still, you can’t argue against the fact his debut wasn’t supposed to come like this.
Kessler wasn’t even supposed to see the field this year. He wasn’t supposed to move up to backup after Robert Griffin III broke a bone in his shoulder one week into the season. He wasn’t supposed to be thrust into the starting spot after veteran Josh McCown got himself hurt the very next week.
Yet, that’s where we are. Instead of taking in a red-shirt year and having a clipboard glued to his hand for an entire season as Cleveland planned, Kessler is now expected to prove his worth three weeks into his professional career.
Tell me you don’t see how high the deck is stacked against him and feel even a little bit of sympathy for the former USC Trojan.
That’s not even regarding the fact Corey Coleman, the Browns’ rookie wideout and potentially the offense’s most potent weapon, went down with a broken hand a couple days ago. Or that starting center Cameron Erving is out with a bruised lung, further shrinking the depth of an already shallow offensive line. Said line will have to protect Kessler from a Miami Dolphins defensive front featuring the likes of Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh this Sunday.
What’s worse is the fact that this is only how foreboding things look on the field for Cleveland’s rookie QB. Making the situation more difficult for Kessler is who he’ll be unfairly compared to based simply on how last spring’s draft went.
If you’ve been able to avoid it – and judging by the amount of coverage, you haven’t – the hype for No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz is astronomical. Depending on who you ask, the Philadelphia Eagles‘ rookie is a combination of Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and the Lord Our Savior. Everyone is raving about the guy who’ll be forever associated with the Browns because they felt he wasn’t a good prospect and traded away their chance to pick him.
As a result, Kessler will unfairly be seen as “the guy Cleveland thought was a better quarterback.” Coach Hue Jackson passed on everyone’s Week 3 candidate for Rookie of the Year because he thought Kessler was his quarterback of the future. If he struggles Sunday and beyond, pundits will just pile on, sarcastically noting “this was the guy they thought was better than Wentz.”
However he plays in Miami, it’s incredibly unfair to hold how this situation has played out against Kessler. He didn’t pass on Wentz. He didn’t wax poetically about how Wentz wasn’t a Top 20 quarterback. He didn’t pick himself too early, then claim everyone needed to trust him about that.
This is why you can’t help but sympathize with Kessler as he preps for his debut much earlier than anticipated. He’s facing a dire situation on the field and will be harshly – and unfairly – judged because of what’s happened off of it, all because of circumstances outside of his control. You get the sense that, not only does the national NFL media expect Kessler to fail, they want him to. Another opportunity to add to the “lol Browns” narrative, another name to add to the long list of Cleveland’s failed attempts at a franchise quarterback.
For what it’s worth, Kessler is doing everything he possibly can to avoid this situation. He’s reportedly stayed late at the facility throughout the week, taking time away from practice to go over Miami’s defense with his offensive teammates. The last thing anyone will be able to say about Kessler is that he’s unprepared.
We’ll see if that’ll be enough to change this scenario from the way everyone is forecasting it going down. I certainly hold out hope that Kessler can surprise people. Otherwise, he’s going to face a ton of scrutiny all because of situations he didn’t have a hand in.