BEREA — The losses, the turnovers, the failed fourth-quarter comeback attempts have taken a toll on rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.
He followed arguably his best game in Cincinnati with another inconsistent effort Sunday in a 19-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Kizer was inaccurate on too many throws throughout the course of the game, then lost a fumble and threw an interception on the final two possessions.
He wore the yearlong personal struggles, the latest defeat and the 0-12 record into a team meeting Monday and drew a public pep talk from coach Hue Jackson.
“What I saw in his face today, he was down, but I told him in front of the whole offensive football team, we are not doing that,” Jackson said. “We are going to keep a smile on our face and we are going to keep working at this thing to get better because being down is not going to do anything. I need his energy and his passion.”
Kizer lamented another week of preparation without a payoff.
“I just want to win a game, that’s all,” he said.
He called this loss the most painful.
“You keep stacking them up, and it’s continued opportunities in front of you and obviously you can feel that number shrinking,” he said, with the hood from his Browns sweatshirt covering his head. “And the closer you get to the end of the season without achieving the goals you have, the more frustrated you become.”
The only certainty in the next few months is that the season will be over Dec. 31 in Pittsburgh. The future of the front office, coaching staff and even Kizer are unknown, but Jackson reiterated he believes the rookie can be a long-term winner in the NFL.
“I’m not changing from that. Yes, I do,” Jackson said. “This experience for him is invaluable. He is getting real-time game reps in the National Football League against some really good defenses that have shown him where he has to improve.
“We all know players make huge improvements from Year 1 to Year 2 because all of a sudden, you understand the speed of the game, what it takes to win, how you prepare. I would be surprised if he is not remarkably better.”
Jackson said Kizer’s improved through the season but noted the issue with turnovers and inaccuracy “reared its ugly head” late in the game Sunday.
“He is trying his tail off to win for his football team, and sometimes in those moments you kind of revert back,” Jackson said. “You are going to take the good with the bad. I am not down on DeShone. He knows he has my backing and my support, but he knows there are some areas he has to grow and grow up pretty fast. He has taken that challenge.”
Despite his public support for Kizer, the No. 52 pick, Jackson acknowledged the Browns could be in the “awkward” position of taking another quarterback at the top of the draft. They are in position to pick No. 1 for the second straight year, and also own Houston’s first-round pick, which is slated to be in the top 10.
“It is not a good problem because that means you are losing, but it is a problem that in this situation, you want to have,” Jackson said. “We can’t have too many good quarterbacks right now on this football team. We have to use resources at that position and go get the right guy that we feel comfortable with to pair them with some of the players we have here to come up with the best quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. That is just what you do.”
Turnovers and inaccuracy have been Kizer’s downfall. He’s last in the league with 20 turnovers — 15 interceptions and five fumbles — and a 52.5 completion percentage.
The Browns are last in the league with a minus-19 turnover differential, which can’t be separated from the 0-12 record that has dropped Jackson to 1-27, the worst coaching start with a team in NFL history.
“This season goes to show how important it is not to turn the ball over and to go get turnovers on the defensive side for a team to win,” Kizer said.
The accuracy issues followed Kizer from Notre Dame, where he completed 58.7 percent in his final season. The misfires were more obvious than ever against the Chargers as he couldn’t connect enough with receiver Josh Gordon, who was open often in his first game in nearly three years.
Kizer overthrew him on a deep slant and a go route and underthrew him on a go route, all with Gordon behind the defense. Kizer was also low on a pair of comebacks and high on a hook, connecting with Gordon four times in 11 targets for 85 yards.
Kizer and Jackson agreed more chances in games with Gordon will help the timing and chemistry, but Kizer took the blame for two specific deep-ball misses Sunday.
“Those plays sometimes end up as touchdowns,” he said. “Accuracy is everything in this league.
“There’s a lot that goes into completing passes. The more I’ll be able to be here and learning how my teammates want the ball, how the system is going to work to get those guys the ball, the better and more accurate I’ll become.”
Kizer planned to watch the film of the Chargers game one more time, then move onto the Packers by later Monday night. He allows himself 24 hours to wallow.
“The NFL has a great way of humbling you. It’s a tough league,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “The main thing was he just thought he had a few throws that could’ve changed the game. But we’ve got to have his back. He’s our quarterback. He’s the leader of our team right now.
“That’s what Mondays are for, though, to kind of get it away and if he’s still feeling that way either tomorrow or the next day, then you kind of talk to him. But Mondays you’ve got to let him have some time to air it out and fix those mistakes.”