Hue Jackson's handling of DeShone Kizer defies logic

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns have had some bad days at their home stadium since they returned from a three-year hiatus in 1999.

Sunday ranks right up there.

The Browns lost in overtime to Tennessee to drop to 0-7 on the season and 1-22 in Hue Jackson and Sashi Brown’s tenure.

Joe Thomas saw his consecutive snap streak end at 10,363 when he left the game with a left-triceps injury.

And the team's already messy quarterback position became even messier, which might be the most mind-boggling thing that happened in the 12-9 loss.

It’s not messy because DeShone Kizer was out early Saturday morning at a downtown Cleveland establishment. Head coach Jackson might talk to Kizer about how that looks, but Kizer is 21, he had worked through the week’s practice and, according to Cleveland.com, even called a players-only meeting Friday to try to energize the team to get a win. There were no laws broken the night Kizer was out, no team rules violated. This was merely a bad look and a learning point for the young quarterback.

Kizer’s biggest concern now is coming back from being benched, again, though it’s hard to see Jackson starting him in London. That role would seem to go to Cody Kessler, who finished the Titans game and went 10-of-19 for 121 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. The difference between Kizer and Kessler on Sunday: Kizer threw two interceptions.

Kessler is the guy who started training camp on the first team, then dropped to third team when the season started and became backup against Tennessee. Why not start him just to complete the quartet?

“Everything right now is on the table,” Jackson said. “How can it not be?”

How can it not be, indeed.

In explaining his decision to bench Kizer, Jackson blamed interceptions, one on Kizer's last throw of the first half and another on his first throw of the second half. Whether it affected Kizer’s confidence was not paramount in Jackson’s mind.

“I can’t worry about confidence,” Jackson said. “You guys keep talking about confidence. We are in the business of winning games.”

Which might be true, except with this Browns team this season, winning comes with an asterisk. Because this season was also about developing a quarterback, nursing him through the tough times and seeing if a 21-year-old from Notre Dame has what it takes to be the guy.

A team with limited talent would certainly try to win games, but if Jackson sold his team a division title, he sold it the proverbial bill of goods. This season was about growth, the quarterback and setting a foundation. If wins followed, great, but that wasn't the emphasis.

And Jackson vowed he would stick with Kizer in part to help build his confidence.

Jackson gushed when he named Kizer the starter, saying Kizer had tremendous talent and a glowing future in Cleveland. He gushed the same way about Kizer when he benched him in Houston.

He put Kizer back in the lineup against Tennessee and gushed about how the QB had learned from watching a game.

Jackson yanked him after a half and three plays Sunday. Two of those plays were bad, but there were other good ones as the Browns relied more on a short and quick passing game with a very limited group of receivers.

In his pursuit of a win, Jackson has now yanked Kizer during games twice and benched him in a third. After promising he would ride out the ups and downs of a rookie and work him through the tough times.

The Browns aren’t working Kizer through much of anything.
 They’re more working him over.

Kizer is not helping with his league-leading total of 11 interceptions, but when a guy starts to play with fear, he makes more mistakes. If Kizer is looking over his shoulder, he can’t play freely.

The question now isn’t so much whether Kizer will be the guy going forward, but whether he’s a lost cause for this season.