“This guy has the right stuff, and I know if I’m worth my salt as a coach, I will get it out of him.”
This quote, provided in August by Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson in reference to QB DeShone Kizer, clearly hasn’t aged well. He made this claim soon after tabbing the rookie as his Week 1 starter, going further in stating he was going to ride with his new quarterback through the good and the bad during the 2017 season.
Barring a few exceptions, it’s been all bad for Kizer ever since. This alone is alarming enough, as there were high hopes he might become a player the Browns could build around.
What makes it all worse is the fact Kizer’s 2017 struggles can easily be blamed on the man who said he could get the best out of him. If we’ve learned anything this season, it’s this – as long as Jackson is around, Kizer will never become a successful quarterback.
If you’ve watched Cleveland at all this season, you’ll be hard-pressed to disagree with this statement. What Jackson – the self-proclaimed “quarterback whisperer” – has done to a 21-year-old rookie is essentially a beginner’s guide to destroying potential.
Where last year, Cleveland’s coach designed offensive game-plans to ease the pressure off then-rookie Cody Kessler, this season he’s done nothing but throw Kizer to the wolves. Despite working with a receiving corps which might excel in the CFL, Jackson has had Kizer attempt an average of just under 32 passes a game. The number is less alarming than the fact most of these throws are downfield routes which rarely pay off.
Why Jackson continues forcing Kizer to attempt ill-fated fade routes week after week instead of giving him short-yardage plays to help him develop a rhythm remains a mystery. Not only does it make moving the offense an incredibly difficult task, it’s extremely questionable to begin with when considering the sub-par receiving corps Kizer has had to work with for most of the season.
Another concerning trend is how little interest Jackson has in helping Kizer with the running game.
Typically, all it takes is a small deficit and suddenly Cleveland’s coach completely abandons a rushing attack in favor of forcing Kizer to chuck it all day. We saw a glaring example of this last week.
The Browns had just scored to take the lead against the Baltimore Ravens, doing so on a drive which featured zero pass attempts. Running back Isaiah Crowell kicked it off with a 59-yard dash. The Ravens came right back to take a three-point lead, and Crowell barely touched the ball again for the rest of the day, despite ending the game with an average yards per carry of 14.4.
Asking a very young rookie to succeed despite being given these hindrances every week is bad enough. However, it’s what Kizer has had to deal with off the field which only hammers home how unlikely his success will be under Jackson’s watch.
Numerous times this season, Cleveland’s coach has made steadfast claims about sticking with his rookie through all the ups and downs. Typically, these statements of loyalty are followed by his benching Kizer mid-game and, at one point, starting Kevin Hogan in his place. Each time, Jackson seemed thrown off when asked about the constant contradictions, as if this routine wouldn’t severely dent his rookie’s morale.
Lately, Jackson has decided to take a less subtle route. This week alone, he’s not only openly hinted Kizer might not be the answer, but also claimed it was fair to question if the rookie will ever get it.
Toss in the fact the Browns were one infamously botched trade attempt from replacing Kizer midseason, and you can see how this relationship has been a disaster from the beginning.
How can Kizer deal with all of this, at age of 21 and in his first NFL season, and ever become a successful quarterback? His coach sets him up to fail on a weekly basis, then continues to pile it on via the media. At this point, it’s amazing Kizer can muster enough mental strength to even walk onto the field.
There was always a chance the former Notre Dame standout wasn’t going to succeed, as is the case with all rookies. However, that the majority of Kizer’s struggles are thanks to the man who said he could get the most out of him just makes this so much more disappointing.
Kizer may eventually get it together and become a solid NFL quarterback. It’s just impossible to believe this will ever occur under Jackson’s tutelage.