Anyone who’s watched the Cleveland Browns this year (for as long as they can stomach it, that is) knows the theme of the season is “injuries.” The team’s full-scale rebuild has been made all the more difficult by the fact the roster is thinned on an almost daily basis thanks to players getting hurt left and right. The offensive line is ailing, rookie wideout Corey Coleman is healing from a broken hand and various key players always seem to be questionable leading up to game time.
However, the most headline-worthy position dealing with injuries is quarterback. Heading into Week 6, the Browns have had a whopping five quarterbacks take a snap this season. A franchise known for having a revolving door at this position has spent the entire year playing into that stereotype, and it’s had a major impact on the fact Cleveland is the lone winless team in the NFL.
As a result, the Browns are looking more and more like the favorite to net the No. 1 overall draft pick by season’s end. Many long-suffering fans would see such an outcome as a good thing. However, there’s at least one player within Cleveland’s locker room who’s likely more than a little nervous about that taking place.
For obvious reasons, rookie quarterback Cody Kessler wants nothing to do with his team getting the top pick, and therefore needs to stay as healthy as possible for as long as he can.
Along with the fact almost everyone assumes the Browns will be officially on the clock the second this season comes to an end, the near-unanimous belief is they’ll target a quarterback with said selection. Top names like Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer have been liked to Cleveland as the team continues its eternal search for a franchise QB.
However, based on coach Hue Jackson‘s comments when he picked Kessler this past spring, you’d think he already found his guy. Injuries to both Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown forced Jackson’s handpicked rookie onto the field earlier than planned, yet it also allowed for everyone to see whether or not Kessler could hang in the pros.
A little over two starts later, the jury is still out on this. While Kessler has shown poise and grit, along with his trademark accuracy, there’s no way you can label him a franchise quarterback just yet.
Which is why this past Sunday was potentially devastating to his chances of being one in Cleveland.
Kessler took a shot to the ribs during last weekend’s drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots, leaving the game early. Though he claims he’ll be OK, and the team is planning to start him this coming Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, he’s reportedly still feeling pain when he throws.
That said, if Kessler can indeed take the field this weekend, he needs to. This ought to be his mindset for the rest of the season.
As mentioned, there simply isn’t enough evidence to indicate Kessler can be someone to build a team around. If he ends up getting hurt, therefore shrinking the amount of time he has in his audition, it’ll certainly damage his chances. Cleveland, potentially having the power to select any player of its choosing next year, can’t pass on a top quarterback prospect because Kessler performed admirably in three or four starts the year before.
So, it’s in his best interests to stay upright and on the field as long as he can. Obviously, no player plans on getting hurt. Still, Kessler needs to do anything he can to extend his opportunity. Knowing the initial plan was to keep him on the sideline all year, another injury could result in him being replaced by McCown or Griffin once either is healthy, a scenario which also leaves genuine doubt around the idea of him returning to the field again this season.
Said realization might go a long way towards explaining why Kessler is willing to keep throwing through pain in order to be ready for Sunday. He’ll need to maintain this mentality all season long if he wants to keep his starting job both now and potentially for the future.