The Cleveland Browns are the NFL’s worst team, and to be honest, it’s not even a close battle. Sitting at 0-11 with a very real chance of being the second team in NFL history to go 0-16, many people naturally start to assess blame throughout the organization. Certainly, there is something not working in Cleveland, and those responsible need to be held responsible, but there is one person on the team who has received more blame than they deserve, and that is quarterback DeShone Kizer. Sure, the rookie signal-caller has had his share of struggles, but he also hasn’t been quite as bad as some think. Kizer still has a chance to be the Browns quarterback of the future, we just need to exercise some patience with the Notre Dame product.
On the surface, season totals of just five touchdowns to 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 57.2 are absolutely terrible, but those numbers don’t tell the entire story. Let’s remember, coming out of college, Kizer was viewed as a project; somebody that could be a very good starter a year or two down the line but would struggle if forced to start right away. Unfortunately with only the likes of Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler, and Kevin Hogan to beat out, Kizer ended up as the Browns week one starter, and predictably, he struggled to find his footing.
Throughout the first several weeks of the season, Kizer not only struggled as far as playing but he was also shuffled in and out of the lineup, making it hard for him to really settle into a rhythm. As a result, the rookie was one of the NFL’s worst starting quarterbacks and it seemed like the Browns has once again struck out on finding their quarterback of the future. Then something funny happened; Kizer started to make improvements, first small ones that are hard to pick up on, and recently some larger ones that are very noticeable in his play.
Kizer has always had a strong arm and plenty of athletic ability, but he has struggled with touch on his throws and decision-making. Lately, however, Kizer has really focused on improving those areas of his game, and it shows. In the last three weeks, Kizer has played the two best games of his career up to this point. Sure, there was an ugly performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars wedged between those two games, but the Jaguars are also one of hardest defenses in the league for any opposing quarterback to face, let alone one with the poor talent Kizer has surrounding him on offense. In his other games against the Lions and Bengals in recent weeks, Kizer is displaying the touch any successful quarterback needs, and he isn’t forcing the ball as much as he was earlier in the season.
All in all, Kizer has received plenty of criticism this season, some of it warranted, plenty of it not. This is a player that was put in a situation that was the complete opposite of what he needed to start his career off in. Between being the team’s week one starter and playing in an offense that lacks talent outside of a few pieces on the offensive line and a couple decent position players, Kizer never really had a chance to play up to the unrealistic expectations we place on rookie quarterbacks. When you watch Kizer, you can find plays that make him look like a future star, and you can find plays that make him look like Tim Tebow with a blindfold on. The reality is, Kizer’s true potential probably lies somewhere between those two extremes, but for a Browns team that has lacked even adequate quarterback play for years, Kizer should still be considered Cleveland’s future at the position.