London calling: Kizer starting at QB for Browns in England

Published 9:03 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2017

BEREA, Ohio — DeShone Kizer has been benched at halftime, during the week and in the third quarter over the past three weeks.

Misbehaving kids don’t get grounded as often as the Browns rookie quarterback, who wants to avoid coach Hue Jackson’s wrath — and hook — and maybe finish a game.

He’s running out of chances.

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Yanked by Jackson last week after throwing interceptions on back-to-back passes, Kizer has been granted another start on Sunday in London as the winless Browns face the Minnesota Vikings, who have one of the NFL’s best defenses.

Kizer has been plagued by turnovers all season — his 11 picks lead the league — and he’s grateful that Jackson is showing confidence that he can learn from his mistakes.

“It is another opportunity to go out there and get it right for once,” Kizer said Wednesday. “For me, it is about taking these opportunities that coach has been able to give me in a league where not a lot of guys get these and maximizing it for once.”

As the Browns (0-7) stagger toward their bye week and deeper into another losing season that could lead to yet another coaching and front office overhaul, Kizer’s development has been among the team’s most pressing issues.

Cleveland needs to figure out quickly if the 21-year-old can be their quarterback of the future.

At this point, he hasn’t convinced the Browns he should be their QB of the present.

Jackson realizes that Kizer, like any rookie quarterback, will make mistakes. However, while he’s exuding patience, Jackson is unwilling to tolerate repeat offenses.

“I know what everybody’s concerned about, that I got this quick hook,” Jackson said. “Listen, DeShone gets it. I’m very honest with DeShone. This is a performance-based business and there’s some things that at the quarterback position are kind of non-negotiable for me, and he knows turning the ball over is something we can’t do.

“It hurts not just him, it hurts our football team. I don’t think he’s going to go play this game worried about, ‘Am I turning it over or not?’ I don’t think he has that kind of personality or else I wouldn’t put him in that predicament.”

Kizer’s feeling some pressure from Jackson and Cleveland’s fed-up fan base, but mostly from himself. The 21-year-old is a tough personal critic and has beaten himself up for not performing better.

“There is not a lot of guys out there who can hold themselves to standards as high as I hold myself to,” he said. “It has been pretty disappointing to have a start the way that we have had. My ultimate goal was to come here and win games for this team and represent this organization the right way, and I haven’t been on that path.

“It is about accepting what has happened in these first seven weeks and doing something different to change that.”

Against the New York Jets on Oct. 8, Kizer was pulled by Jackson at halftime after two costly turnovers in the red zone. He was replaced by Kevin Hogan, who then started the following week at Houston.

Kizer started last week against Tennessee and played well in the first half, completing 9 of 11 passes but threw an interception to stop a potential scoring drive in the final minute of the second quarter and threw another on his first pass in the third. Cody Kessler came in and finished the 12-9 overtime loss.

Jackson has seen improvement in Kizer, but wants more and believes his handling of the young QB has been appropriate.

Jackson’s critics — and their ranks have grown with his 1-22 record — argue that he’s shattering Kizer’s confidence with his yo-yo approach.

The coach doubled down on his methods.

“I could care less what anybody thinks,” Jackson said. “Unless a psychologist comes to tell me that DeShone’s going to fall apart and jump off the building or do something goofy because I’m taking him out, I don’t sense that because I’m very honest with our players, and they understand what we’re trying to do.

“At the same time, he has a job. His job is to help this football team win. And if you’re doing things that doesn’t allow us to win, then it’s my job to make a decision to help whether that’s sitting you down and putting somebody else in or stick with you because I understand certain things that happen and there will be things that happen from an interception standpoint that’s not his fault. When it does happen, I won’t put that on him.”