As the slog through the swamp continues, not everyone connected with this sludge-fest is dripping wet.
DeShone Kizer, for one.
Not statistically, of course. Statistically, he’s been a metrics sinkhole, as has his team. For that, it and he can blame one another, but both would be wrong, because they didn’t assemble themselves.
For this gruesome Browns season, don’t blame the assembled. Blame the assemblers.
What Kizer has had to endure this season shouldn’t be foisted upon any quarterback, much less an innocent 21-year-old rookie.
What Kizer has had to endure isn’t so much a normal rookie season as it is the football equivalent to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, with Kizer and his teammates being crazily chased through the streets by snorting, irritable bulls, symbolizing the methods and madness of the current, transitory, Browns regime.
Oh, the humanity.
Through it all, though, Kizer has tried to carry himself professionally, a task made even more difficult by the assemblers’ refusal to provide Kizer with a veteran quarterback/mentor who could guide him through the minefield that is being a neophyte quarterback on a directionless team.
Instead, Kizer, much like the team that employs him, has been flying blind.
To his credit, however, Kizer has put up a good front. He may be an overmatched quarterback on an undertalented team, but he’s doing his best to make the most out of a dysfunctional situation.
For most of the season he has carried himself the way you would want a quarterback on a real team to carry himself. He’s been accountable, he hasn’t pointed any fingers, made excuses, or blamed the officials for bad calls.
He’s given credit to the Browns’ opponents. He’s been respectful of the Browns’ fan base. He’s played hurt, and he’s played weaponless.
Oh, has he played weaponless. Indeed, his most admirable trait might be that he hasn’t publicly whined about the elephant in the room, which is the lack of gazelles in the room — i.e., that the assemblers have surrounded him with the weakest group of receivers in the history of the franchise.
A quarterback without receivers is Terry Francona without a bullpen. It’s hip without hop, Mike without Mike.
Browns officials are asking their rookie quarterback to complete passes to whom exactly? The ghosts of Dante Lavelli, Paul Warfield, Gary Collins and Ozzie Newsome?
That’s one big reason why we don’t know if Kizer is The Guy, or just a guy.
But Kizer bravely soldiers on.
It’s not his fault that Browns regimes stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the importance of the most important position in the sport.
Kizer didn’t draft himself in the second round. He didn’t trade away from Carson Wentz. Kizer didn’t trade away from Deshaun Watson. It wasn’t Kizer who failed to aggressively pursue Mitch Trubisky.
The decision to play Kizer before Kizer was ready wasn’t Kizer’s. Neither was the decision to not have a veteran quarterback to take the pressure off the most inexperienced, lightweight quarterback room in Browns, if not NFL history.
When Kizer was benched three times by a panicky coach trying to win a game or two to save his job, Kizer again said all the right things. Because the last thing the Titanic needs is a boat rocker.
In the loss last week to Detroit, Kizer played his best game of the year, but still found himself in a hornet’s nest of controversy, which is business as usual for the Browns.
With time running out in the first half, the Browns had the ball at the Lions’ 2-yard line and (naturally) had no timeouts left. Of all the possible plays to run in that situation, the Browns (naturally) picked the worst one of all. A quarterback sneak. Predictably, Kizer never came close to reaching the goal line, which allowed the clock to run out.
Instead of getting at least three points, or, at best, seven, the Browns got none.
Forget all the postgame subterfuge, what should have happened was this: Hue Jackson should have radioed in a pass play to Kizer and told him “Run the pass play. No audibles.”
After the game, Jackson, in a quote that seemed aimed for use in his next job interview — “See? I’m accountable!” — basically said, “Blame me for everything,” followed by Kizer who, clearly under orders, said nothing.
And the slog through the swamp continues.
For Kizer, it’s a rookie season that probably makes him wish he’d stayed at Notre Dame. Instead, he’s trying to be a leader as a franchise crumbles around him. Nobody knows if he’ll eventually develop into a capable NFL quarterback, but this is no way to find out.
Ironically, however, given all the chaos that’s constantly swirling around him, the argument could be made that Kizer — against all odds and narratives — might actually be the LEAST of the Browns’ problems.