Don't dismiss DeShone Kizer from Browns QB discussion

Can DeShone Kizer survive the Cleveland QB meat grinder and start for a second season? Joe Sargent/Getty Images

As the scouting combine draws near, DeShone Kizer finds himself in a situation familiar to several recent Cleveland Browns quarterbacks.

It’s life in what has annually turned into "Browns Season" -- that time of Browns excitement between the Super Bowl and training camp.

This is the time of year when the next great discovery dominates the discussion, when the players who will be on the team in the future are far more important than the players already on the team.

The best thing Kizer can do? Ignore it -- every bit of it.

Because during Browns Season, talk of the draft and free agency dominates. Which means the quarterback who started 15 games last season is forgotten.

In some ways, it’s understandable. The Browns did finish last season winless. But it’s probably not wise to dismiss Kizer’s chances of keeping the starting job in 2018.

He earned that chance.

Kizer endured a miserable rookie season, and one of the things he said after the last game was that he would be remembered as the quarterback of an 0-16 team.

Technically, he was correct. But there were many contributors to the record.

Kizer experienced what many before him had endured: the Cleveland Browns quarterback meat grinder. No team grinds them up and spits them out faster.

Kizer had his issues, and to his credit he’ll admit to them. A completion percentage of 53.6 is not adequate for an NFL starting quarterback, and 22 interceptions is too many.

Kizer never hid from those statistics; he kept saying the right things and doing his best to improve. But his climb uphill was as steep as Mount Everest. The Browns were a team, according to their own coach, that needed to be perfect to win, and nobody could disagree with that take.

There was an overall lack of talent, a team teardown of great magnitude, no real threats at receiver. It added up to a season in which whatever could go wrong did go wrong. It was so bad that GM Sashi Brown was fired for doing everything he said he would do: tear down the team, go young, build with cap room and draft picks, and point to the 2018 and 2019 seasons as the turnaround.

Kizer had to survive a rookie season in the midst of this hurricane.

But as he starts to prepare for his second season, he has some advantages.

First, Kizer has played. He’s gone through the rookie struggles. Boy, has he ever. He knows now what he didn’t know when he walked into the building as an eager rookie. That is a benefit. It can’t get worse, can it?

Second, Kizer got better late in the season. There were mistakes, but in his last game, Kizer played his best game. He had the Browns on the doorstep of their first win but was done in by a dropped pass at the 10-yard line in the final minutes. The overall effort and heart were more than impressive and gave Kizer something to build on.

Third, Kizer still has the size, arm strength and skills that prompted the Browns to draft him in the second round. He was thrown to every wolf in North America, but he lasted the season. Had he not been benched a game for throwing interceptions, he’d have been the first quarterback since Tim Couch in 2001 to start all 16 games for the Browns in the post-expansion/post-1999 era. That’s an achievement.

Finally, Kizer’s attitude was excellent. He showed up early and stayed late. He never stopped working, never stopped trying to be better. He was accountable, didn’t complain and stayed true to the team. Talent eventually shows; attitude can’t be faked. Kizer has a good one.

He will have to deal with the reality of the Browns adding two quarterbacks, one via the draft and one via free agency. But Hue Jackson has been steadfast in saying the Browns will play the best guy. Kizer will be given the chance to show he is the best guy, and his chances should not be dismissed. Players often make great strides between their rookie year and second season.

Kizer has the chance to work on his game in the offseason, and he’ll start with the edge of a year’s experience with the team.

He deserves the chance to go out and win the job.

One of the oldest adages in sports is that competition either breaks or brings out the best in players. How Kizer comes out of this Browns Season is up to him.

If he betters himself and earns the starting spot for the 2018 opener, the Browns will be just fine.