BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – In what feels like a bi-weekly change of opinion this year, Browns head coach Hue Jackson is no longer touting DeShone Kizer as the quarterback of the future.
But from his standpoint, that is okay.
Cleveland selected Kizer 52nd overall in the second round of the draft, where he was actually the fourth member of the draft class following 3 picks in round 1.
“We did not draft a quarterback in the first round and say, ‘This is our quarterback of the future.’ We took a quarterback. We are trying to grow him,” Jackson said Wednesday. “We have a very young quarterback room. We need to continue to improve that room as much as we can as we move forward for it to be the best it can be.
“I understand when you take a guy in the second round, everybody suspects that that is the guy. We wish it is. You hope it is, but if it isn’t, that is OK, too. Hopefully, that guy will continue to grow and get better, but you also have to get better at the position.”
Jackson said twice in October that Kizer “has a huge future” with the Browns and on multiple other occasions expressed his belief that Kizer would be the solution to what has been a 19-year problem.
“He has been through a lot. Obviously, the issues are well documented. The successes that he has had, the little ones that he has had, those are documented, too,” Jackson said. “What he has to do is continue to have more good times than bad. I think that is [the goal] to a man on our football team. I think we are all chasing that. I think that is what has eluded everybody.
“I think he gets it. It is hard, but this is a hard sport for hard people. This is not an easy sport so you have to continue to grow from it, learn from it and then hopefully in the future these experiences that he has been through now will pay off for him.”
Kizer has been benched 3 times by Jackson because of performance and another because the game was out of hand. Jackson’s decision to bench him for a start in Houston has cost the rookie an opportunity to become just the second QB since 1999 to actually start all 16 games on the schedule.
Still Jackson doesn’t think that between the benchings and trying to trade for Bengals backup AJ McCarron at the trade deadline has any impact on Kizer’s confidence.
“I think DeShone is still a very confident person and a confident player,” Jackson said. “That being said, are there some scars there? You better know there are. I don’t think any quarterback that goes through what he has been through that doesn’t have them, but there have been many other players before him that have been in some similar situations that has had the same scars – maybe not to this extent, but they have had them – and they find a way to come back out of them and have great careers.
“He is a young player, and if he couldn’t handle it, we wouldn’t stick him back out there. I truly believe that he can.”
Kizer is ranked last in the NFL in interceptions (19), turnovers (26), completion percentage (53.9) and rating (59.4) this season.
Pro Bowl Reaction – For the first time since 2006 the Browns did not have any players named to the Pro Bowl outright. Linebacker Joe Schobert – a fourth round pick in 2016 – was named a first alternate and left guard Joel Bitonio was named a second alternate.
“It is a pretty cool honor. Anytime other players, coaches and fans recognize you a little bit, it is pretty cool,” Bitonio said. “For me, not being able to play the last couple of years and to finish the seasons off, to come back and so far have a healthy season and get recognized is a pretty cool honor. Obviously, I would trade it for some wins right now, but it was cool to see. At this time last year, I don’t think I was even walking yet. To come back and to do that, I was pretty pumped about it. Now, I just want to get a win to end the season off.”
Linebacker Christian Kirksey did not make the cut despite being ranked fourth in the NFL and second in the AFC in tackles this season.
“For me, I am just going to keep going hard, keep grinding until I reach my goals, but right now, I am trying to win a game,” Kirksey said. “That is what my main focus is, trying to get our first win under our belt this year. The Pro Bowl will take care of itself as long as I keep chopping at the wood or doing what I have to do personally, then it will take care of itself.”
Too Many Kids – all season Jackson has pointed to the team’s youth as the reason for their struggles to win a game and he did so again on Wednesday when asked about being 0-14 once again and needing another Christmas miracle to avoid 0-16.
“This team, I hate to say it, is younger. The guys that are playing now is a younger team,” Jackson said. “I know you are laughing about that, but it is the truth. It is a younger team, a different year, a similar situation, but I do not want to attack it the same.”
Meanwhile, the second youngest team in the NFL – the LA Rams are 10-4, lead NFC West and are playoff bound. Unlike the Browns, they spent free agent money wisely, drafted their franchise quarterback and have a coach willing to adjust his scheme to the talent he works with.
Injury Report – DNP: CB Jamar Taylor (foot); LIMITED: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee), RB Isaiah Crowell (shoulder), WR Matt Hazel (hamstring), RB Duke Johnson (shoulder), TE Randall Telfer (knee); FULL: LB Josh Keys (wrist).