I can’t talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers anymore. Between being just-removed from their NBA Finals defeat and Dan Gilbert deciding to nuke the front office right before the draft, it’s just too depressing.
I need a breather, something to take me away from all the chaos and noise. I just want to find a pleasant distraction.
Let’s talk Cleveland Browns quarterbacks.
Yeah, you know the Cavs must be a mess if I’d much rather discuss a subject known far and wide for its endless array of incompetence and failure. However, that’s where I find myself today.
I’m also bringing it up because, quite frankly, something strange is happening.
The Browns finished up their summer minicamp last week. In the time since, various reports have been noting rookie DeShone Kizer is “closing the gap” between himself and presumptive starter Cody Kessler. These reports almost always include some sort of caveat noting the former Notre Dame star “is far from being ready.”
As an onlooker to all of this, it may seem confusing to hear Kizer is getting fast-tracked, but also isn’t close to being ready to start. Those appear to be conflicting statements, no?
Meanwhile, we’ve heard about Kessler spending the offseason bulking up, while the man formerly known as “that guy who came with a second round pick” – Brock Osweiler – reportedly surprised many at OTAs.
Why, then, is Cleveland focusing on speeding up the learning curve for Kizer even though he may not be capable of meeting those demands just yet?
To be blunt – it’s because Kizer has to start this year. Maybe not in Week 1, maybe not even a month or two into the season. However, one of the most pressing issues for the Browns this year is getting Kizer on the field as soon as he’s ready.
Their realization of this appears apparent when you see how the other Cleveland QBs are being viewed.
Osweiler has apparently turned heads, yet nobody seems to take the idea of him starting at all this year very seriously. Kessler spent the winter trying to improve his arm strength, but the most you hear about his chances are “well it’s his job ‘til someone else takes it.” Real confidence boosting stuff.
While the rookie quarterback will always steal headlines in Cleveland, it does seem strange to hear Kizer is being given the inside track on the competition.
That said, when you realize two important factors, it provides a lot of clarity.
First of all, what exactly are the Browns playing for this season? Sure, the goal is to improve from last year’s dumpster-fire 1-15 campaign. Still, this isn’t a playoff team, nor is it convincing itself it is one.
As a result, why prioritize Osweiler? While he has the most experience of the three, this is something you consider when in win-now mode. Cleveland is in no way in this position, as it’s instead spending time establishing cornerstones to build upon for the future.
Osweiler doesn’t fit that mold. He may play this year (it’s the Browns we’re talking about), but it’s unlikely he’s viewed as any sort of legitimate solution.
The most glaring reason why Kizer is getting the most attention is the simple fact any and all decisions Cleveland makes this year will likely be made with next year’s draft in mind.
The Browns own five picks in the first two rounds of the 2018 draft. There are already three incoming QBs – Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen – viewed as potential franchise changers. It’s the kind of draft a team in dire need of an answer at quarterback eagerly anticipates.
Cleveland is indeed one of those teams. It also just drafted a quarterback some felt had the most potential of the 2017 class.
As you can see, finding out how good Kizer is could be seen as one of this year’s most important agenda items. The Browns have to know what they have in him. There simply can’t be any grey area coming into next spring. Cleveland can’t approach a draft this littered with top-grade quarterbacks not knowing whether or not it even needs one of them.
So, as confusing as it may seem to be hearing about how a still-raw Kizer is gaining ground on the starting gig, it makes a lot more sense when you look at the big picture. The Browns’ goal for 2017 is not winning the division, nor is it to go on a deep playoff run.
Instead, it’s to realize whether or not they have key pieces in place at all priority positions. None of said positions is more important than quarterback.
As a result, Kizer will likely get more attention and opportunity. And that’s exactly the way Cleveland should be handling this.