Cleveland has a(nother) new potential savior. According to a report by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot on Sunday morning, Browns head coach Hue Jackson will announced that DeShone Kizer will be the team’s starting quarterback. Kizer’s elevation is more an indictment of the Browns’ other options than an endorsement of the second-round pick’s Week 1 readiness. Kizer, a Notre Dame product, beat out Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler, and Kevin Hogan for the right to be the latest name to be added to this jersey.
Though Kizer is 6-foot-4 with a strong arm and modest speed, not even Notre Dame fans would have expected him to be a starting NFL quarterback as a rookie. He’s inaccurate and struggles to read coverages, typically an overwhelming combination for young passers. Kizer is raw, but he has a few serious NFL-ready traits. He’s flashed an ability to keep his eyes downfield while using excellent footwork to avoid pressure, a skill some quarterbacks never learn.
Browns game winning touchdown + Titanic music pic.twitter.com/UR3U833PRB— Matt Allaire (@AllaireMatt) August 11, 2017
There might be a lot of fun moments between Kizer and Browns sophomore receiver Corey Coleman, but history is against them. Kizer will be the ninth different quarterback in 10 seasons to start for the Browns in Week 1, and the 27th starting quarterback since the Browns franchise was reincarnated in 1999. The Browns may be hoping Kizer is the Quarterback That Was Promised, but they’re not banking on it. Cleveland’s new front office, led by Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta, brought The Process to the NFL when they traded for Osweiler in March, essentially buying a second-round pick from the Texans in exchange for taking Osweiler’s mammoth contract off their books. The Browns were hoping to flip Osweiler in a separate trade for another asset, but that second trade never materialized. Osweiler was the favorite throughout camp because of his experience, but he failed to put a single point on the board in his six preseason series, and now the Browns may be looking to shop him again. To Cleveland’s front office, he’s a salary cap loophole, not a starting quarterback.
The Browns might be tanking this year. They have 12 draft picks in 2018, including two first-rounders and three second-rounders, making them the NFL version of the Boston Celtics. No matter what Kizer does this year, Cleveland is probably drafting their quarterback of the future in 2018.
Cleveland’s inability to find a quarterback this deep into the 21st century isn’t random — it signifies the importance of a patient owner. Cleveland has had eight general managers in 18 years. (The Ringer’s Mike Lombardi is among them.) Look no further than the Browns’ rivals in the AFC North to see the antithetical approach. The Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals haven’t had a question at quarterback in a decade — they also haven’t changed decision-makers in that time. Ozzie Newsome is the only general manager the Ravens have ever had. Bengals owner Mike Brown has been overseeing GM duties since Andy Dalton was in day care. And the Steelers have had the same GM since 2000 — hell, the Steelers have had just three head coaches since Richard Nixon was president. In Brown and DePodesta, Cleveland may have found their long-term solution in the front office, and now they have a chance to find one at quarterback. Cleveland has been wandering the quarterback desert for decades. Kizer might be The Guy to lead them out. But if the tank is on, it’s more likely he’s the last stopgap until the Browns find their one true savior in 2018.
An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated in which round DeShone Kizer was drafted; it was the second round, not the third.