Winless Browns and DeShone Kizer show perils of rushing rookie QB
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Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer went to high school two hours apart in Ohio before becoming two of the best quarterbacks in college last year. They attended the same draft combine in February as well as media events afterwards.
Yet the two didn’t have a conversation until draft night.
“There’s a lot of people from Ohio that play football,” Trubisky deadpanned Wednesday.
Dressed in suits, the two spoke for 20 minutes about, among other topics, the fact they’d never met. Kizer asked Trubisky about his most notorious high school game. Then they parted from Philadelphia, headed for different fates.
The Bears drafted Trubisky No. 2 overall and decided to bring him along slowly, but Mike Glennon’s struggles scuttled that plan after four games. Kizer, the Browns’ second-round pick from Notre Dame, was named the team’s starter in the preseason.
The Bears were hesitant to expose their rookie to too much too soon. The Browns weren’t — and are paying the price.
Like the Bears with Trubisky, the Browns claim Kizer is improving with every game. Statistically, though, both the Browns and their quarterback have been a disaster.
Kizer may eventually personify every coach’s fear about rushing a rookie quarterback. The Browns are likely to draft his replacement this offseason, perhaps ending his starting stint before he turns 22 years old.
Kizer started the season opener and all but one game since — and is 0-13. He has an NFL-high 19 interceptions. His 59.4 passer rating is ranked No. 35 among qualified starters, meaning three backups have been better than him.
He’s been benched three times this season, and he avoided a similar fate Monday when coach Hue Jackson said despite three interceptions a day earlier, he’d take the field against the Bears.
The Browns will finish with the No. 1 overall pick. They’ll have the Texans’ pick, too, which should fall in the top five. They’ll draft a quarterback.
Kizer, then, has fast-forwarded his way through an NFL life cycle — from promising rookie to a losing quarterback to someone fated to be a backup next year — in less than four months.
Kizer, though, prefers to consider the experience a fast track.
“This is going to be a journey,” Kizer said. “I’m in Year 1.
Most people, it’s Year Negative 3.
“To understand and see that right in front of you — there’s no reason to get down. There’s a lot of room for improvement, and I understand that. I know the quarterback I can become, and I feel the spurts when I’m out there and the drives I’m able to put together and the things I’m learning. Those things are the things I hang my hat on because those are the things that are going to continue to drive me forward to become a better quarterback. This is all about winning.”
The Browns aren’t.
“When you’re a young player on a team that hasn’t won a lot of games, I think it’s tough to kind of make decisions about exactly where they are,” Jackson said.
The Bears studied Kizer extensively before the draft but preferred Trubisky’s accuracy and leadership skills. This season, they’ve grabbed onto Trubisky’s three victories like life rafts — they help prove his progress.
“As a young player, the ultimate as a quarterback, the burden of the win-loss record falls on you — you and the head coach get most of the credit and blame,” Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “But you see [Kizer] getting better. As a young player, it’s just like Mitchell, that’s all you want to see.”
Kizer has tried to focus on fixing little things each week — be it his footwork on runs and passes or fixing red-zone ball security. But they don’t add up to much without victories.
“You acknowledge them, but then you also obviously take those with a grain of salt,” Kizer said. “Because the ultimate goal here is to win.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.