Not that he’s been off our radar screen for even a split-second all season, but let’s take a hard look at Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Sure, he’s only 12 games into his pro career – No. 13 will come Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at FirstEnergy Stadium – so he’s still learning and developing. Young players, especially at quarterback, change a lot from year to year, with the greatest change coming between their first and second seasons. So Kizer will look a lot different next year at this time.
Despite that, though, we have seen more than enough of him already to know what he is now, and as such we can make an educated guess as to what he will eventually be.
On the positive side, Kizer is, for starters, a great leader, which all quarterbacks need to be. When the Browns’ best quarterbacks through the years, such as Otto Graham, Frank Ryan, Bill Nelsen, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar, stepped into the huddle, everybody knew who was boss.
Kizer is tough. Again, all those greats were as tough as nails.
He’s a team-first guy. He’s interested not in his personal statistics, but rather in winning. And when the offense struggles and the team loses, he stands up and takes full responsibility for it.
He has a strong arm. He can throw it long and hard. There’s not a throw he is unable to make.
So, then, if he has all that going for him, why hasn’t Kizer been more successful?
First of all, he struggles with his accuracy, which was a knock on him coming out of Notre Dame. A quarterback can throw it into the next county, putting it through a brick wall on the way, but if he can’t hit the target consistently, then he will be unsuccessful in the NFL. Kizer is not as inaccurate as most people think he is, however. Part of his not completing a higher percentage of his passes is the fact that his receiving corps, which, because of its youth, inexperience and lack of ability, leaves a lot to be desired. Still, he’s off-target too much.
Just as importantly, Kizer doesn’t have a good touch on the ball. In addition to putting it in the right spot, it has to be the kind of “soft” pass that’s easy to catch. All those Browns greats excelled in that regard.
And finally, he doesn’t seem to be able to rise to the occasion, to make the biggest throws at the most opportune times. Especially now in the NFL, these games are won down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Again, from Graham to Kosar, those former Browns quarterbacks were uncanny in their ability to do that.
There are four games left. Let’s see if Kizer, who projects now as someone who can play in the league but won’t excel, can improve on his shortcomings and make his strengths even stronger during that time.
It still won’t — nor should it – keep the Browns from drafting a quarterback at No. 1 overall next spring. But it would improve Kizer’s standing and resume and give him a head of steam going into the offseason and 2018, which is all he can really ask for in this difficult situation.