That was my initial reaction when I saw rookie DeShone Kizer would be starting this Saturday’s preseason dress rehearsal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sure, the Cleveland Browns had been tipping their hand, giving him ample playing time this past Monday against the New York Giants. Still, the assumption was the team would play it safe and let Brock Osweiler start Week 1 while giving Kizer more time to learn.
To be fair, coach Hue Jackson has only noted things are “trending toward” the rookie getting the nod in the season opener, leaving himself an out in case there are struggles in Tampa.
Going back to my first thoughts upon hearing the news, I didn’t think Kizer would get the nod because it was clear he’s still going through growing pains. I thought Osweiler would have an edge, despite looking extremely underwhelming in the preseason.
Read that again, and you find an issue bigger than who’ll be taking the most snaps come Saturday. This QB competition hardly has a clear winner, and it’s mainly because of how badly it was set up to begin with.
Coming into camp, the Browns were looking to see if Osweiler or Kizer could unseat the incumbent Cody Kessler. Right off the bat, you have a battle which doesn’t exactly elicit much inspiration.
However, breaking it down further only made it look worse. Each participant in the competition had significant red flags, which should’ve signified how tough it would be to determine a victor.
Kessler being the early front-runner felt like a formality. He took a ton of damage last season, and still lacks the arm strength needed to succeed as a starter. The hopes of seeing improvement from him behind a revamped offensive line were dashed by a brutally underwhelming performance in camp.
Kizer was clearly the key project for Cleveland this year, as he was likely going to start the second the coaching staff believed he was ready. The problem, though, is he isn’t there yet. He’s definitely been the most impressive QB so far, but he’s still making mistakes which imply he could use a little more time before starting.
This was always a possibility. The write-up on Kizer was he had all the physical tools, but was definitely a raw prospect who wouldn’t be ready right away. Knowing this, Cleveland would have to have a reliable veteran on hand to at the very least hold down the fort until the rookie was ready.
To call Osweiler said reliable veteran goes against everything the team has done since acquiring him in March.
Within minutes of trading for the former Houston Texan, reports claimed the Browns were trying to get rid of him. Unable to do so, Osweiler came into camp and never worked with the starters.
Simply put, he was an outcast from the day of his trade up until two weeks ago, when it was determined Kessler wasn’t in the running and Kizer still had room to grow. At that point, the Browns shifted the narrative, letting him start the preseason opener and gift-wrapping the quarterback gig for him. All he had to do was look competent and the job was his.
In four preseason drives, Osweiler has a total of 67 passing yards and an interception. He’s yet to generate any points, his throws have been off and his lack of chemistry with the starting offense is blatantly apparent. To sum it up, Osweiler’s preseason seems like a condensed version of his disastrous year in Houston.
With nobody clearly taking hold of the starting job, Cleveland took a big step towards handing it to Kizer, ready or not. All his impending victory really does is highlight how mismanaged the whole ordeal really was.
When dealing with a rookie quarterback, it’s important to have a viable backup option available in case development is slower than anticipated.
The Browns’ “viable backup options” were Kessler – a quarterback whose main issues are still very much present – and Osweiler – a player the team had been trying to get rid of until about 16 days ago.
Looking at it this way, is it really that surprising the Browns are giving Kizer the nod? Both of his fellow competitors have ceilings of “backup at best,” so the fact neither challenged him is hardly a stunner.
Now, if he proves to still need time to grow, Cleveland has only itself to blame for the conundrum it’ll have to deal with. The team may be forced to push Kizer onto the field too early, and it’ll be because it couldn’t find a legitimate competitor to go against him in camp.
Considering this, all we can do is hold out hope Kizer can handle the job. Otherwise, the Browns will have to deal with the consequences of setting up a quarterback battle which pitted a rookie against players picked from the Island of Misfit Toys.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook