Camino Scratch: Desperate to find franchise QB, Cleveland Browns should remain patient
Rushing Kizer as starter could ultimately hurt development, process of identifying quarterback
By: Nick Camino
CLEVELAND – Patience. That is the last word any Cleveland Browns fan wants to hear.
Since the franchise was ripped from the city in 1995, stole away to Baltimore only to be reborn again in 1999 (probably a year too soon), it seems all Browns Fan has done is exert every ounce of patience humanly possible in hopes of seeing their favorite team finally becoming a consistent winner in the NFL.
And yes, here I am, 18 years after the Browns returned to town as an expansion team, still preaching patience. It’s ridiculous. Sad. Damn-near tragic. And whatever other colorful word you can probably presume.
However, when patience is lost and knee-jerk decisions are made, regardless of the professional sports organization, most times, mistakes are made.
The Browns are certainly no stranger to this.
Like, rookie Tim Couch being thrown into the fire Sept. 12, 1999 against the Pittsburgh Steelers behind no semblance of an offensive line. The team’s first regular season game back in Cleveland. This was his very first professional game. Yes, in Week 1. The long-term plan according to then general manager Dwight Clark was for Couch to sit and learn from the sidelines and spend an entire season behind veteran quarterback Ty Detmer.
Or, like Colt McCoy being thrown to the wolves in Week 6 of the 2010 season against the Steelers. Prior to that season, Browns team president Mike Holmgren was adamant that McCoy would not see the field that season. Together Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace lasted a bit longer than Detmer, but not much. Oh, and I’m still anxiously waiting on my playoff tickets from Holmgren.
The lesson learned: Desperate teams make desperate decisions.
The Browns have made these types of decisions for 18 years. Most recently they decided to not keep two anchors on the offensive line in Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz. At times, it’s well, quite simply…baffling.
Finally, it is time for the organization to swallow its pride. Know thyself, and understand the right decision may not see immediate winning results.
This should not be that difficult. Nobody expects this team to win by the end of this year. Las Vegas oddsmakers have set the Browns season-win total at 4 ½. Those guys in the desert typically don’t miss these projections by much.
Hue Jackson and his coaching staff should understand they will get an additional year to get things headed in the right direction. If owner Jimmy Haslam expects the NFL Playoffs or even an 8-8 or a 7-9 win-loss record this upcoming season, he may be more delusional than we even imagined. Candidly.
My point in all this?
Starting rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer in Week 1 vs. the Steelers would be yet another mistake for this Browns organization and a desperate attempt to accelerate the process of finally identifying their franchise quarterback. Meanwhile, are we seeing a trend here putting first-time quarterbacks in against Pittsburgh?
The correlation is right in front of our face. It’s clear as day. You do not even need an Ivy League education to comprehend this.
Since 1999 the Browns have failed to find their franchise quarterback. And since 1999, outside of a 9-7 season with Butch Davis using smoke and mirrors to reach the Playoffs for three hours in Pittsburgh, or Romeo Crennel somehow helping guide a 10-6 non-playoff campaign, the Browns have been the butt of nearly every joke when it comes to the NFL.
And, until the Browns can identify that starting quarterback and do so in the proper fashion, the joke will remain on Cleveland’s football team.
Given our first look at Kizer in a Browns uniform for the opening pre-season game against the New Orleans Saints, the Notre Dame product showed poise and even some leadership in going 11-of-18 through the air for 184 yards and one touchdown. Kizer also led the final drive for the Browns, which proved to be throwing a game-winning touchdown in the first exhibition contest. His first.
However, this was merely one half of football, and that against third and fourth string backups that will be fortunate to make the Saints final practice squad when the season opens a month from now.
That’s not to disparage Kizer’s play in that first pre-season game. He was impressive. He even appeared comfortable. But let’s not print playoff tickets just yet. And remember, we won’t be able to call Holmgren for those anyway.
Let’s simply not rush to judgement that Kizer is in fact the savior at quarterback this town and franchise have so desperately craved since ’99.
Brock Osweiler serves as the perfect bridge to the guy fans one day hope will be that franchise quarterback. Whether it happens to be Kizer, Kessler, or even Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA) or Josh Allen (Wyoming), all of which are projected first round picks in a loaded 2018 QB draft class, Osweiler will not be the difference between finishing first or last in the AFC North.
As a starting quarterback in the NFL, Osweiler has gone 14-9 in his career, which includes a playoff victory.
Am I proclaiming the 6-7, 240 lbs. Arizona State product is headed to the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in Canton? Of course not. Osweiler would only serve as a bridge to that franchise guy.
Behind a veteran-laden offensive line that looks to be much-improved, Osweiler and a decent running game should keep the team somewhat competitive. Again, if Jackson and his staff have Haslam’s blessing of three years, then development and identifying playmakers should take precedent over wins and losses at this point.
It feels silly preaching patience 18 years into this. It really does.
However, it is the only way this revitalization of one of the NFL’s proudest franchises can occur.
The Browns finally look to be building their team the correct way. Yes, you read that correctly. The Harvard-rich analytical front office is stockpiling future draft picks, Haslam has plenty of cash to spend as evidenced by how much money under the salary cap the team is and both the offensive and defensive fronts appear to finally be taking form.
The pressure is on the Browns coaching staff now to develop and identify offensive playmakers, defensive backs and a linebacker or two. The front office will help in this effort as well.
But keep in mind, everything else pales in comparison; the single-most important thing is to find that franchise quarterback. Maybe in Kizer, the Browns already have?
Time will help clarify whether Kizer can be the Browns’ signal caller of the future. Soon enough you may have to start familiarizing yourself with the aforementioned Darnold, Rosen or Allen. College football kicks off in less than two weeks and you will have plenty of time to evaluate and project future talent.
For now though, rushing to all those judgments, just does not seem to make much sense.
The past 18 years has taught us that.
*Nick Camino’s column will appear weekly on WTAM.com and can be linked up through Facebook and Twitter. Nick is the nightly talk show host on Newsradio WTAM 1100 and also helps anchor sports at Cleveland 19 News.