Is the Browns quarterback decision really a simple one?
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns face a quarterback competition in training camp. But is there a simple solution staring head coach Hue Jackson in the face?
There will be plenty of position battles to keep an eye on when the Cleveland Browns opening training camp on July 27.
If you are a fan of special teams play, then the kicking competition between incumbent Cody Parkey, who was actually pretty good in 2016 once he had a chance to settle down, and rookie Zane Gonzalez will one to watch. That is especially true when you consider how much the Browns struggle to score touchdowns, making the kicking game a key component of the offense.
More importantly will be the contest at right tackle, where Shon Coleman, now a year removed from knee surgery, looks to be the favorite for the starter’s role over Cameron Erving, who failed spectacularly at center, but who should have a better go of it at tackle.
The biggest competition, of course, will come at quarterback, where Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and rookie DeShone Kizer will attempt to take a firm hold on the starter’s job.
But does head coach Hue Jackson need to go through the process of an open competition in training camp? Or is there a simple solution starting him in the face, one that will save everyone from spending the rest of the summer in a state of stress?
According to Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News, it could be as simple as naming Kizer the starting quarterback and not looking back:
"There’s no doubt Cleveland drafted Kizer because of his immense potential with his arm and athleticism, something he didn’t fully reach while at Notre Dame under coach Brian Kelly. Talent-wise, even in his raw state, Kizer’s versatile skill set is more appealing than what both Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler can offer, now or later. The ability to quickly develop Kizer also is critical to the tenure of coach Hue Jackson lasting beyond 2017."
"As the Browns are seeing Kessler and Kizer side-by-side, the rookie has made things even going into training camp. His upside already was undeniable in contrast to that of Kessler. While Osweiler is trying to re-grasp the basics, and while Kessler’s throwing has hit a low ceiling, Kizer is showing a nice floor faster than expected."
Iyer makes a few valid points, but misses the mark on a few others.
While Osweiler is not as bad as he looked at times last season with Houston, he is also probably not as good as people made him out to be after the 2015 season when he made seven starts for the Denver Broncos. This will be Osweiler’s sixth season in the NFL, and after making 21 starts over the past two seasons the Browns should have a pretty good idea of what he brings to the table.
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Kessler has the advantage of being the only quarterback among the three who are familiar with Jackson’s offense, but that can only carry him so far. Kessler has his limitations – most notably an inability to consistently stretch the field – and that is not likely to change.
He’s a great player to have on the roster as a reliable second quarterback, but it is hard to look around the rest of the quarterbacks in the division and then view Kessler as the quarterback who will lead the Browns back to glory.
So does that mean Jackson should just name Kizer the starter and be done with it?
Kizer is potentially more talented than either Kessler or Osweiler. And giving him as much practice time as possible throughout training camp and the preseason would certainly help accelerate his learning curve.
But the consensus surrounding Kizer entering the 2017 NFL Draft was that he was not prepared to be a day one starter, and there is no reason to believe that has changed based off a few practice throws in shorts and a helmet.
Kizer may be physically better than Kessler or Owseiler, but that is not the same as saying he is ready to start.
Clearly the Browns like Kizer’s game or else they would not have drafted him. But the idea that they have to immediately start him “to see what they have” or because it will somehow save Jackson’s job is a bad road to travel down.
Everything the Browns have done since promoting executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and hiring Jackson has been with an eye on building longterm success, rather than worrying about who will line up in Week 1 of the regular season.
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If Kizer shows during training camp and the preseason that he can handle the starter’s role, then good for him and good for the Browns. If it takes a bit longer? Well, the Browns have been searching for a quarterback for more than two decades, so what’s a few more weeks going to hurt?