These last five games are vital for DeShone Kizer

Amidst the banal existence of another potential winless season, the Cleveland Browns are at an important crossroad. The process by which the Harvard Brain Trust (HBT) has been building pointed toward the desire to finally have a competent team built to surround a rookie quarterback taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. Sure, the Browns hoped to win some games along the way, but the top of the draft position was something they knew was part of The Plan. Tear it down, rebuild, and then you can cap off the rebuild with the quarterback built to have a team around him in place to help him win – help the process go as smoothly as it can for a rookie quarterback. The plan seems solid in nature, and whether some want to admit it or not, the pieces are there for the Browns to be competitive in the near future.

There is just one problem with the HBT’s quarterback plan, though. The Browns, whether through the HBT or Hue Jackson, decided last year that it was necessary to take a flier on a second-round quarterback in Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer. Kizer has clear limitations as a 21-year old quarterback who left college early – Brian Kelly made sure to let everyone know, but at the same time Kizer also has plenty of tools and upside that made draft minds think he could be worth the risk. The balance in that risk, and the Browns failure in preparation for the 2017 quarterback position group has left them in a peculiar spot.

Throughout Kizer’s first 10 NFL starts, he has flashed some actual games of promise, and he has shown in others a reminder for why the 21 year old was taken in the second round of the draft. He has looked both parts able and unable and it has often happened within a week to week format. Whatever stat you want to find on DeShone Kizer, whether good or bad, you can find it. Whether this one to help his case:

Or ones like this that hurts his case:

These stats can be found all over the place, but they don’t paint the most accurate picture of what Kizer truly is. Kizer is a rookie trying to find his way in a difficult league with a plethora of young guys playing around him. It’s no secret the odds aren’t in Kizer’s favor so far. The Browns are the league’s youngest team, and Kizer is often going into offensive drives without his three best offensive weapons on the field as Duke Johnson, David Njoku and Corey Coleman have either been hurt, benched, or forgotten about entirely. Hue Jackson doesn’t necessarily help his young quarterback out schematically either, and that’s why we see some of the ugly numbers we have seen from Kizer thus far in 2017.

Solely blaming others for Kizer’s issues isn’t fair either. Kizer has more interceptions from a clean pocket (12), than any other quarterback has in the league total. The picture here is muddled, and is something the Browns front office and coaching staff, whoever they may be in 2018, will have to come to a conclusion on.

Rookie quarterbacks struggling to make consistent linear progress is nothing new. Playing quarterback in this league is about as hard as it gets in professional sports, but what the Browns have to do is gauge whether they want to risk their entire plan on the shoulders of this young man, or if they want to use some of their hard-earned draft capital on the top quarterback in the 2018 draft class. The option for a free agent quarterback who can change the course of the franchise is about as meager as it comes, although the possibility is there. Odds are the Browns will have to attack the draft if they seek the long-term solution they don’t deem Kizer can be.

That brings me to the point here. These last five games, with a full slate of weapons, will tell us a clear story about the progress of Kizer, and the future the Browns can have with him at the helm. Kizer has an opportunity to present his case against some quality defenses (Chargers, Ravens) and some who struggle (Bears, Packers, Steelers). The main argument for Kizer supporters has been an utter lack of weapons to help the young kid out. That has been fair, but a fully healthy Corey Coleman, Duke Johnson, David Njoku and now Josh Gordon present the young man with some options to allow others to help him make the necessary plays to show his promise to the front office and coaching staff. Kizer himself stated this week “My consistency at the quarterback position is a big key on how we are going to continue to go out and have success on offense.”

There are so many factors that will play an important role in the future of DeShone Kizer in Cleveland, especially who is in place in the important decision-making roles when the off-season comes around. What we do know is that the odds remain high that the Browns will finally draft a quarterback with the first pick, their first time doing so since 1999, but there alternative and sticking with Kizer can’t be ruled out. If Kizer wants to make sure he is the man of the future in Cleveland, he has to help his cause by being lights out in the final five games of the season – make this decision as hard as possible on the franchise as it tries to desperately figure out a position it hasn’t solved in nearly twenty years. My only hope is they defeat their own history, and make the right decision this time around.

  • scripty

    “That brings me to the point here. These last five games, with a full slate of weapons, ”
    Wow, an inconsistent 2nd year WR and a guy who hasn’t played in like 3 years who has a yet-to-be determined grasp of the playbook and yet to show he’s in football shape, not just having aerobic capacity.

    Kizer remains a first year project with a weak LT protecting him. I can’t put too much into these games myself.

  • Harv

    agree. Remember the important last 5 games that kept Mangini around a needless extra year? One of the problems of combining a brutal denuding of all veterans on the roster with spotty (to be kind) talent evaluation is that you cannot judge the newbie QB. Hard to tell if he knows where and when to throw if no one is open, if no one knows how to be in the right place to catch it. He didn’t get to sit and watch, has no veteran mentor, certainly doesn’t have much of a running game. He’s just expected to go make winning plays, like he’s the second coming of a rookie John Elway.

  • KFunk

    “The main argument for Kizer supporters has been an utter lack of weapons..”

    While I agree with that point, my main argument is that there doesn’t seem to be a slam-dunk #1 overall QB in this draft class. That’s what makes me most nervous. If they draft let’s say– an Alex Smith type #1 overall, how does that help the Brown’s QB situation? The opportunity cost of NOT drafting a true impact player is what I fear.

    I’d be in favor of breaking the bank for Cousins, then drafting both Barkley & Sutton, per Pat McM:

    If Kizer ends up beating out Cousins, a la Russell Wilson, then cool. If not, the Browns still have their QB for the longer term, and a back-up with experience.

    Then in round 2, get the best S & CB they can (or even trade up if a stud S or CB is there for the taking). And with the PHL pick, go OL. The remaining picks should be used to add depth (DBs, LBs & OL especially).

  • Eric G

    Maybe the word “relatively” would have eased your nerves?

  • Eric G

    I say bring back McCown and let him backup. He loved it here, and was the consummate team player and probably would be again, though maybe not with how “decently” he’s playing in NJ.

  • Jake Burns

    If Kirk Cousins consciously elects to come to Cleveland I will be both simultaneously stunned and celebrating. While great in theory, it is beyond unlikely. Plenty of other more competent organizations have the same Brinks Truck to back up.

  • Jake Burns

    I get your point, and considered it, but there is an urge for him to prove his worth one way or the other as they consider what to do on draft day. It doesn’t make or break his career, just the Browns immediate plans.

    And that supporting cast is now equal to about 1/2 the league. Usage of that cast is another issues in and of itself.

  • scripty

    The offense should work a little better if Coleman and Gordon look right, no doubt there though.

  • KFunk

    I guess so, but who are we talking about really? SF is off the table. CHI? BUF? JAX? You’re right this is a messed up situation to walk into, but no other team has cap space like this, so you never know.

  • KFunk

    No thanks. He is terrible. The definition of “just good enough to get you beat” and fragile on top of it.

    That said, I don’t have any other good ideas for a vet back up.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi JAKE … most are dismissing Cousins coming to Cleveland … and now that Grop went to SF , I thinks our chances of getting Cousins increased.

    Some have suggested Cousins may end-up in Denver , Jacksonville or some other winning team … I’m not sure what Denver & Jacksonville’s cap looks like , but the Browns should be able to offer him much more than most teams.

    After what we’ve experienced at QB since 1999 , no price is too high … in fact , even if they did get Cousins to come here , I’d still draft another QB later in the draft & we SHOULD be set.

  • KFunk

    I agree.

    Jets & Jags seem like the likeliest contenders, based on this data. But most expect the Jets to draft a QB high

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi K … McCown is having a good year on a sub-par team … 17 Td’s 8 Int’s & a 95.3 QBR … probably having the best season of his career.

    that’s been the problem the last few years , there weren’t any really good FA QB’s & thus we end-up with RGIII & McCown … it will be a different story next off-season.

  • tigersbrowns2

    thanks for sharing … it was MG who suggested Denver & Jax to me … Jax has more cap space than i thought.

    realistically , the Browns would have to be comfortable with overpaying Cousins & making him an offer he can’t refuse.

    of course , I think the Skins can slap the tag on him again.

  • tigersbrowns2

    … look at what happened to Eli & the Giants when OBJ & Brandon Marshall were lost. the supporting cast looks pretty bad now.

    and then even to show how having more than 1 good QB is important , look at what happened to the Texans , Packers , Colts & Cardinals … when their starting QB went down , so did their seasons.

  • tigersbrowns2

    and MG advised me that Eli may reunite with Tom Coughlin down in Jacksonville … which makes sense.

  • tigersbrowns2

    as crazy as this sounds , i see more hope & talent with this 1-26 stretch than i saw with some of the veteran-laden squads that went 3-13 or 4-12 every year.

  • KFunk

    Right. What I’m most disappointed about with the Browns is their under-use of salary cap space. It’s like they’re not really even trying. It would be like a mechanic trying to fix your car, but not using all the parts, then just hoping for the best as you drive away. How does JH & the FO expect to compete when they’re not even using all their chips!?!

    If there was ever a time to overpay, it’s now, for a legit playoff-caliber QB. For the love..!

  • KFunk

    I agree on the hope & talent part. I just don’t feel comfortable with this FO using all these picks wisely :-/

    (or making good decisions when it comes to adding some key vets and re-signing their own)

  • tigersbrowns2

    this is just me , but i think they were waiting until 2018 & 2019 to start seriously using the cap space … if they are all still here next off-season , this will be their most important FA period & draft.

  • KFunk

    You seem to be right, but they underestimated the damage that would be done by losing almost every key vet, and the ensuing losses as a result. That was a big miscalculation, and may cost them their jobs.

  • paulbip

    Take Mayfield with the first pick

  • BenRM
  • Chris

    Maybe we can call him Toby.

  • KFunk

    The main point is that there isn’t a clear cut #1, which is worrisome

  • KFunk

    I agree 100%. He’s not set up for success (no QB would be, in these circumstances). But if they win a game, I’ll be pleasantly surprised