No matter what happens over the next few months, the Cleveland Browns will be starting their fifth different opening-day quarterback in five seasons when the 2017 season kicks off.
The Browns had three first-round picks taken ahead of Kizer — including defensive end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick. But Kizer, because of the position he plays, will be as closely watched as anyone.
He’s a big, strong-armed quarterback who was taken by the Browns in the second round because other teams were concerned about his accuracy and attitude.
Coach Hue Jackson made a recent appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily,” the team’s in-house radio show, and was not shy about his feelings on Kizer’s pure ability.
“I don’t know that I’ve coached a guy with this kind of skill set,” Jackson said.
Keep in mind this is the same coach who a year ago said the “earth moved” when he watched Griffin’s workout. And Jackson also added that he would coach Kizer “from the ground up.”
The draft scouting reports on Kizer were consistent. He’s big and strong, able to move and has a big arm. He played at Notre Dame, so he’s well aware of the pressure of playing the position and being in the spotlight. He struggled with maturity, accuracy and consistency. His college coach, Brian Kelly, conceded that Kizer should have stayed another year at Notre Dame.
The inaccuracy is a major concern. Kizer left Notre Dame having completed 60.7 percent of his passes, but the number for his final season was 58.7. In his first five games last season, he threw 14 touchdowns with four interceptions. Then he had two games with no touchdowns and three interceptions — though one was in a monsoon against North Carolina State. The Irish finished 4-8 in his final season.
“I don’t think we’re in a rush to stick him out there,” Jackson said. “But at the same time, I’m not going to stop him if he shows those skill sets very quickly.”
Which is the way it should be. If Kizer is the best option, he should play. But he has to show it.
The best thing that may have happened to Kizer was lasting until the second round. Though it cost him money, it also removed much of the pressure to play him right away. Teams constantly say they will play a guy only when he’s ready, but often that phrase does not apply to first-round picks.
As a second-rounder, Kizer can develop more at his pace as opposed to the pace of first-round expectations.
“I think in this last year, and more importantly in these last couple months, having knowledge on how much room for growth there is and to be going into a system in which everyone also acknowledges that around me and is not expecting me to come in and be some all-star right away is pretty cool, because I know I can learn a lot,” Kizer said. “Obviously, the history here at the quarterback position is one that’s been recognized from quite a few people, and I’m just looking to do whatever I can to become a help to that.
“I don’t know whether that means competing with the guy next to me and pushing him or playing myself, but I’m going to do whatever I can do to contribute to this team as much as I can.”