DeShone Kizer gets the chance to start a new era at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Not shabby for the youngest quarterback on an NFL roster — 21 years, 236 days as of Sunday, per ESPN Stats & Information.
In making the announcement Sunday, coach Hue Jackson said the team is committed to Kizer not just for a few games, but for the long term and through the struggles a rookie quarterback can expect.
“This is not just for the moment,” Jackson said on a conference call. “We’re going to get with DeShone and ride him through it all and work with him through all this. You said it, those things are going to happen. And I think we get that. I think he gets that.
“We’re not going to blink about it. We’re just going to correct it and keep moving forward.”
In Kizer the Browns have a guy with a strong arm and good size. He looks the part of an NFL quarterback, and he throws like one. He just has a lot to learn, mainly about the complexity of NFL defenses, starting in the opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers and in Week 2 at Baltimore.
“The defense’s No. 1 job is to rattle the quarterback,” Jackson said. “We have to understand how they’re trying to attack him and take him out of his game.”
Kizer earning the spot is a testament to his approach and attitude. He had the ability from the get-go, but he never balked at starting last on the pecking order and never questioned any of Jackson’s decisions. He worked hard, committed himself and stayed the course even though Brock Osweiler started the first two preseason games.
Jackson would not say if Kizer would play in the fourth preseason game in Chicago. The coach is balancing Kizer’s need for snaps with the risk of injury.
But Kizer will be the first rookie to start at quarterback for the Browns since Brandon Weeden in 2012 and second since 1999. He’ll also be the 10th different opening-day starter in the last 11 seasons.
He has to live up to the responsibilities of the position in terms of work ethic and preparation. If he does, the Browns will give him every chance this season. For a coach like Jackson, it’s an exciting possibility — to think that the Browns may be a step closer to solving their to-date unsolvable problem.
“It is very exciting,” Jackson said. “When we drafted this young man, there was a purpose in drafting him. We thought that he had exactly what we were looking for.
“As we kept diving into this process of spending time with him and making him our draft pick and from the first conversation I had with him up through now, it has been about how we can get him to be the best that he can be. I give [executive vice president of football operations] Sashi [Brown] and the executive team a lot of credit. I think we all dove into this the right way to go find a guy who hopefully can solve our quarterback issue.
“Again, it is not over with yet. This guy has been named the starter, but he still has to earn the right to be the starting quarterback for this team week in and week out, and I think he gets that.
“But he has the talent, he has the makeup and he has the things we are looking for. Now, we just have to go get him and push him onto that next level.”
Kizer will be the Browns’ 27th different starting quarterback since 1999. But there is something about both him and Jackson that says he has the chance to be the guy who keeps No. 28 at bay — provided the Browns are truly patient and willing to accept the growing pains, and provided those growing pains don’t become intolerable.