I like Sashi Brown. I like Hue Jackson. I like Paul DePodesta. I don’t like the decision they made.

The ironic thing is I also like DeShone Kizer, so perhaps this will look as foolish in retrospect as those glowing preseason pieces on Ryan Leaf in ’98. But pushing Kizer, a rookie quarterback, out into the chaos of the NFL season for the opener is premature, and potentially permanently damaging.

Let’s start here: Kizer is the most talented signal-caller on the roster and has played relatively well in the preseason. It’s hard to truly judge exhibition decisions, throws, and drives for obvious reasons. Most starters don’t play much. Most players play at half speed. The fans and media treat it like a light jog. Success is relative under these conditions.

Kizer’s proven his fantastic arm strength though, made mostly solid reads, and has not been the entitled, immature, coddled kid many accused him of at Notre Dame. He’s worked hard, taken tough coaching well, and remained humble at every juncture with the Browns.

So maybe he’s ready, and like Peyton Manning or Troy Aikman, under center at the starting line for a bad team in his rookie season will help him develop into a Hall of Famer. But more likely it will damage him, teach him terrible habits, and force him into taking an unnecessary pounding every week.

The Browns might be the worst team in the league (although the Jets, Niners and Bears are all aggressive contenders for that title). Last year, Cleveland was one of only ten teams ever to finish 1-15. It took the Browns until Week 16 to get that lone victory, the latest into the season it took any of the previous nine squads to win a game. Cleveland has built through the draft the last two years, and has some high-end talent on the roster. But it’s a young roster, it’s early in the franchise’s development, and the Browns are not ready to protect Kizer’s inexperience.

We’re not talking literal protection here. The offensive line should be decent. They have future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas protecting his blindside. We’re talking about a supporting cast picking up the slack of a young quarterback and not forcing him to carry too much of the load.

Dak Prescott thrived last season as a rookie primarily because he played behind the most dominant offensive line in recent memory, had a superstar running back with a historic rookie season, and was complimented with veterans Dez Bryant and Jason Witten as security blankets in the pass game.

Cleveland’s rookie quarterbacks of the past like Tim Couch and Brandon Weeden were permanently scarred because of starting too early as rookies. Former Browns first-round pick Brady Quinn has told me how ever-changing personnel, schemes, and coaches sunk his career before he had a chance. And David Carr was pummeled so brutally in Houston as the top pick overall for an expansion team he never recovered.

The key for this current Browns regime is long-term planning and patience. Tossing a rookie quarterback out there for a bad team goes against this. Brown and DePodesta have shown they are looking to build in a deliberate way, stressing team development and leadership qualities in their players. Jackson is a no-nonsense guy who coaches with passion and desperately wants to prove his worth. The leadership feels like the right pieces in place.

But in the preseason everyone’s optimism is unchained from reality, and unfortunately the Browns will be a 6-10 team at best. Is it worth throwing Kizer to the wolves this early if you have a human pinata in Brock Osweiler who can take the punishment as Kizer watches and learns?

Yes, you may get 16 games under center for Kizer and perhaps that helps develop your next franchise quarterback. Perhaps it goes kaboom, yet positions you for Sam Darnold at the top of the ’18 draft. Perhaps you can then try to trade Kizer in the offseason as a young quarterback commodity as you draft your next guy. But the “Cleveland QB Nightmare” has been unrelenting over the last twenty years, and often it’s because of decisions exactly like this.

D.A. hosts 9am-12 pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.

Comments (6)
  1. Flip Oh says:

    “But the “Cleveland QB Nightmare” has been unrelenting over the last twenty years, and often it’s because of decisions exactly like this.”

    Well yeah, because there are only so many realistic options and usually the “decisions” like this are unavoidable. Of course it’s easy to say this in hindsight. A lot of “decisions” in the nfl can blow up in your face, and Browns are the best at that. But you can’t think that way. You have to do what’s best and I think almost ANY organization knows more about their players than some writer or fan.

  2. Joe Crestani says:

    Says Damon Amendolara, who has never been a GM or Head Coach or any other position with a professional football organization.But he sure knows what the Browns should and should not do.

  3. The O-line is considerably better than the makeshift line that was out there week after week. Even with that bad o-line the Browns were 3rd in the NFL in rushing. I would prefer he sit this year, but its not all gloom and doom as the author makes it out to be.

  4. Scott says:

    The Browns have no choice, they have to start Kizer. If we want to “win now” the other choices in quarterbacks on the roster leaves no choice but the rookie. He’s our best chance at winning more then one game again and if he is an absolute bust we go back to the draft and take another swing in the dreaded “next year”. If he’s Derrick Carr not Ryan Leaf we’ve upgraded that position finally and we can really start building this team. If he gets hurt we’re in for another horrible season.

  5. Steven says:

    Why do you assume The Browns will be one of the worst teams in the league this year? I don’t expect much from the O but the D has been in preseason and will be strong this year. They could easily win 5 to 7 games and put together a respectable season to build on.

  6. Dave - PHX says:

    Lots of QB’s have been thrown to the wolves their rookie season and not only lived to tell about it, but they had long successful careers. The list starts with Dan Marino, Troy Aikman and Joe Montana and continues to current QB’s Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Derek Carr.

    Ryan Leaf proved that it wasn’t playing his rookie year that did him in. It was many other factors. Brandon Weeden proved in Dallas that he just wasn’t good enough, even with years of experience.

    For the Browns this was clearly the best move as they will now get a full year to learn whether Kizer has the goods, or if they need to draft a top QB next year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Listen Live