Optimism was high when the Browns drafted DeShone Kizer, hope that a long list of futility that was Browns quarterback play was about to end. But like many before him, Kizer failed. Was he a failure of the system or was it something deeper?
Although then-Browns GM Sashi Brown tried to relax those expectations by insisting Kizer needed to sit and develop, Hue Jackson recklessly ignored that advice and propelled Kizer into a starting role. Jackson also opted to have Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown released earlier that offseason.
For so much of camp and early into the 2017 season, Jackson was full of praise for Kizer, saying he had the attributes and skills to be a franchise quarterback and that he was the man to help him excel. In the end, Jackson’s claims just proved to be a shallow excuse to tell everyone how good he was as a coach.
Throwing Kizer into the fire early just felt like a moment of desperation from the Browns trying to find a quarterback. However talented Kizer was, he wasn’t ready to start in the NFL and that eventually became quite clear. After the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week One, Jackson was convinced Kizer would get better and better throughout the year. But once he began to struggle, the former Bengals offensive coordinator was already too drunk on ambition and belief that the damage was done.
Instead of progressing, Kizer struggled as the Browns finished 0-16 and had the second winless season in NFL history. Kizer’s career in the NFL may have reached its conclusion, going out with a whimper playing for three teams in four years. A combination of a poor decision and gross mishandling by the team that selected him proved ruinous for the quarterback.
Nonetheless, it may still be argued that the blame lies with the quarterback to perform and that falls firmly at Kizer’s door. In spite of this, Kizer shouldn’t shoulder the blame for the turmoil. Kizer’s rookie teething, a porous offensive line, less-than-stellar coaching staff and the Browns history of failed quarterback development fall under the microscope. Since 1999 the Browns have had 30 quarterbacks ranging from Doug Pederson to Tim Couch to Johnny Manziel. The Browns have struggled to find any sort of continuity and stability at the most important position in the game, and desperation to find a franchise signal-caller has left many rookies damaged.
Even prior to the Hue Jackson era the Browns struggled to develop franchise quarterbacks as Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel flopped. None of them finished their rookie contracts with the Browns. In total, the 30 starting quarterbacks spent 60 combined seasons on the Browns roster which amounts to two seasons per quarterback. That isn’t a figure that breeds success in any sport.
Aside from Baker Mayfield can it be argued any of those passers made any sort of impact in the Land?
As much as it is easy to blame Kizer for struggles all three quarterbacks the Browns trotted out in 2017 endured torrid years. None of Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan thrived in Jackson’s offense, and by the end of the season, all three were damaged goods thanks to Jackson’s delusions of being able to make them franchise quarterbacks. This was especially the case with Kizer. All these quarterbacks were effectively broken and moved to other teams, almost as acts of mercy. Kizer was traded to the Green Bay Packers for Damarious Randall. Kessler was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019. Hogan was waived. Interestingly, none of these players are currently in the league.
The Browns were desperate to find a franchise quarterback to the point where they rushed Kizer, who was not ready to play on even a talented roster due to being an undeveloped project. He certainly had no chance on a team with a revolving door at quarterback like the Browns. Thus, Hue Jackson and the Browns ruined Kizer, and his career was shot down before it had a chance to fly.