BEREA, Ohio -- Hue Jackson will take another day or two before announcing his starting quarterback for Sunday’s Cleveland Browns game at Houston.
Which is all well and good, except that the Browns head coach more or less made the decision in last Sunday’s loss to the Jets. When Jackson pulled DeShone Kizer at halftime of the Jets game after talking the QB up since training camp, he made it next to impossible to go back to Kizer immediately. Everything Jackson said Monday also pointed to Kevin Hogan taking over under center.
"My decision is what is best for the team. What is best for our team to put us in position to win?" Jackson said. "Also, what is best for DeShone? It’s not just for the team, but what is best for him just so that he can feel like, ‘OK, I am moving further along in this process, and I’m understanding what I need to do to be better.’ All of that will go into my decision-making.”
Jackson’s move 4½ games into the rookie’s career shows that the coach’s confidence is not where it needs to be. Kizer has to feel it, the team has to see it. Going back to him right away might only further jumble Kizer’s mind.
Hogan played far better than Kizer on Sunday, going 16-for-19 and leading the offense to 14 second-half points. His year of experience in the offense shows in his quick decision-making and ability to get rid of the ball.
He has taken advantage of his opportunities from preseason through Sunday, completing 26 of 38 passes (68.4 percent) for 377 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, a rating of 104.8.
Based on that alone, Hogan should get the start. Hogan has to prove he can sustain this kind of production.
Kizer’s numbers do not make a compelling case. He might be at the point in his young career when taking a step back and observing might help him learn and get refreshed.
Heading into Monday night’s game, he ranked last in the league in completion percentage, yards per attempt and rating among qualifying quarterbacks. He ranks first in interceptions. He sits last in the league in Total QBR, while the rookie the Browns passed on drafting in the first round -- Deshaun Watson -- ranks first.
None of this does a thing to clarify the Browns’ long-term outlook at quarterback. The team has in five weeks gone from being excited about getting a chance to evaluate a young player to being on the verge of moving on to another young guy.
Jackson said on Monday that when he said he would stand by Kizer through ups and downs, he meant it with a qualifier.
“Ride through the ups and downs until I determine that the ups and downs are too much,” Jackson said.
“Too much” came in the first half against the Jets, with Kizer’s goal-line interception putting the coach over the edge.
“I said it, I was going to ride with him, and I have done that,” Jackson said.
Kizer was not pleased about being benched, saying he would take it as a learning experience so he could go right back on the field.
The problem is that the coach has already told him he’s not playing well enough to stay. The coach is 0-5 this season, 1-20 overall, and is desperate for a win.
"DeShone, in my opinion, is going to be a tremendous football player in this league," Jackson said. "He has to continue to work at it each and every day. He is like most young quarterbacks that start into this. It goes well, then there is a little nosedive, then there is a pickup and then there is a flatten-out period. He is going to go through all of that until he has gone through it.”
Jackson has uttered some memorable comments on quarterbacks, starting with "trust me" on the drafting of Cody Kessler, feeling the earth move beneath his feet during Robert Griffin III’s workout, and Kizer playing “lights out” in a 24-point loss to the Bengals -- a statement Jackson clarified Monday to mean the rookie was “lights out” in his decision-making.
On Monday, Jackson said that he still believes Kizer can be a franchise quarterback.
“I am not backing off of that,” Jackson said. “Just because a guy all of the sudden. ... We started this with everybody in this room saying, ‘Hey, Hue, he might not play as well at times.’ That is what this is, so I don’t think anybody should be surprised by it. This was going to happen.
“I said this to you guys: It is going to happen at some point in time. What I decide to do about it, that is my decision on what I think is best for our football team and what is best for the player.”