Upgrade: Browns rookie QB Kizer back after one-week benching
By TOM WITHERS
Oct. 18, 2017
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — DeShone Kizer went on a weekend retreat to a place he never wants to visit again.
The sideline is not the rookie quarterback's spot.
Benched for last week's game in Houston by Browns coach Hue Jackson following a rash of turnovers and costly interceptions in the red zone, Kizer was reinstated as Cleveland's starter on Wednesday.
The NFL's youngest starting QB will make his sixth start on Sunday when the winless Browns (0-6) face the Tennessee Titans.
Kizer believes he learned from watching backup Kevin Hogan play, and he's determined to prove to Jackson — and Cleveland fans — that he should finish this season atop the depth chart. He doesn't want this to become a week-to-week deal, but a permanent one.
"It's understood now that if you're not performing, there's definitely going to be a guy that can perform," Kizer said before practice.
"But it's on me to make sure that question never comes back up and go out there and do my job to the best of my ability and make sure No. 7 is leading this team for years to come."
Years? At this rate, the Browns would settle for a full season from one quarterback. Since 2014, Cleveland has changed QBs a staggering 20 times in the past 43 games.
Jackson won't commit to playing Kizer for the remainder of 2017, but he'd like to.
"I'm not going to say the rest of the season, but I know he's the guy right now," Jackson said.
"I hope he is. I hope there are no more times we have to take him out. And let him reset himself. We're talking about a young quarterback, 21 years old, whose learning the National Football League and he's wearing a lot of different hats.
"I thought it was the right thing to do. In fact I know it was the right thing to do a week ago. We'll be better for it and he'll be better for it and hopefully we'll see the growth from him taking a week off."
Kizer needed a break. After throwing a league-high nine interceptions in the first five games, he was showing signs of regression and Jackson wanted to slam the brakes before things got worse.
So Kizer traded his orange helmet for a brown baseball cap and watched as Hogan threw three interceptions in Cleveland's 33-17 loss to the Texans.
Hogan had sparked the Browns in three previous relief appearances, but in his first start as a pro he encountered some of the same problems that Kizer has had: a limited running game, inexperienced receivers and a Browns defense making critical mistakes.
While the demotion may have initially hurt, Kizer said it motivated him.
"It definitely sparked my competitive juices," he said. "In this league, you've got to talk less and do more."
Firing up Kizer to play better wasn't one of Jackson's goals in benching the quarterback, but it's a helpful byproduct.
"When you don't get to play a lot of things happen and especially when it's something you want really bad," Jackson said. "So hopefully there's a lot of lessons learned and he'll grow from it and come out and play as well as I think he can."
Jackson's main objective was to get his young QB to understand that he can't be carefree with the football, especially in scoring chances. Kizer's four interceptions inside the opponents' 20-yard line were damaging.
On Sunday, Kizer said seeing — and feeling — the demoralizing impact a turnover can have on an offense, game plan and team, drove home Jackson's point.
"When you're on the sideline, you can just feel the momentum of the game a little more than when you're out there," he said. "You can see the reactions of everyone — from fans to coaching staff to defense. You get to see all the different parts that move along throughout the game, and for me, it really showed the importance of making sure the ball is simply out of harm's way."
NOTES: S Jabrill Peppers didn't practice because of a toe injury, but Jackson doesn't expect the first-round pick to be out long. ... Hogan has been dropped to third string because of bruised ribs. Cody Kessler, who started eight games last season as a rookie, will serve as Kizer's backup against Tennessee. ... WR Kenny Britt practiced and is expected to play this week after missing two games with a groin injury. Britt began his career with the Titans.