Coming into this season, one could argue there was no bigger goal than determining whether or not DeShone Kizer could be a potential franchise quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Recalling this only makes the harsh realization we’ve seen four weeks into the year all the more troubling.
Simply put, Kizer’s team has set him up to fail.
Being the starting quarterback of a franchise in year two of a messy rebuild was never going to be an easy job. All Kizer had to do was talk to teammate Cody Kessler about the trials and tribulations which come from such a scenario.
Still, Cleveland made its intentions very clear coming into the 2017 season. The team intended to get Kizer on the field as soon as he was ready in order to determine if he indeed is the QB it can build around.
It was here, you could argue, where the Browns made their first mistake.
Again, the plan was to start Kizer when he proved he was ready to do so. While he performed better than any other quarterback on the team during the preseason, it was hardly because he lit up the scoreboard. Instead, after watching him compete with Kessler and Brock Osweiler, Cleveland tabbed Kizer more as the lesser of three evils than as the clear choice at starting quarterback.
To be fair, the Browns’ decision to put him on the field because they felt he could learn more there than on the sideline wasn’t completely wrong. Provided Kizer was given a chance to succeed, he could’ve slowly but surely made some steps forward in terms of development.
Through four weeks, I ask you to look at what the Browns have assembled around him and honestly tell me they’ve set him up to succeed. That they’ve given him a fair shot to prove himself.
Kizer has been given barely any weapons to work with, and is being asked to win football games on a weekly basis despite it.
Cleveland’s receiving depth chart was paper thin to start the season, and this was before Corey Coleman broke his hand again. Kizer’s best wideout is Kenny Britt, a player who coach Hue Jackson wanted to bench last Sunday for continued drops, but couldn’t because there were no other options to go to. Outside of him, Kizer has to lean on receivers whose ceiling would be “practice squad at best” on a better team.
To send a quarterback on the field before he’s ready happens a lot in the NFL. To do so because there were no other valid options, to do so despite having no weapons for said quarterback to work with, this will unavoidably stunt his development.
One can look no further than where Kizer is now compared to how he started the year to see evidence of this taking place.
Fans and media alike left Cleveland’s Week 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers thinking Kizer could potentially be the man who could end this team’s ever-lasting drought at quarterback. Since then, he’s been steeply regressing.
He leads the NFL in interceptions, and also boasts the lowest passer rating of any quarterback. Accuracy remains an issue, as does pocket awareness. Worse, with every loss, Kizer sounds more and more deflated in his post-game press conferences. After Sunday’s 31-7 bludgeoning from the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland’s quarterback sounded as though he was mentally crushed.
All in all, Kizer’s rookie season has gotten off to a painful start. We’re now at a point where fans and media members alike are saying it’d be a better idea to start Kevin Hogan at quarterback. Only it’s not just about some sort of arm-chair talent evaluation. Fans are suggesting this solely to keep Kizer alive.
If he’s indeed benched for the sake of saving his career, how do you come back from that? How would a 21-year-old handle being yanked out of fear his development might be getting stunted?
If Kizer continues to regress, we may soon find out.
Overall, his NFL career couldn’t have began much worse. It forces you to wonder how different things would be if his front office had actually put some effort into giving him a chance to excel.
That it didn’t is incredibly frustrating. That the team probably won’t own up to any of this makes it even worse.