Rocked rookie: Kizer down after Browns fall to 0-12
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — DeShone Kizer kept the brown hoodie pulled up over his head, providing him some comfort and perhaps a small haven to hide.
He didn’t come close to cracking a smile and Cleveland’s rookie quarterback spoke with little emotion, his words delivered slowly.
Kizer has been beaten down like never before. The losing — so much losing — has taken its toll.
“I just want to win a game, that’s all,” he said.
Kizer was down and dejected on Monday, a day after the Browns’ horrendous season sunk a level lower with a 19-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The 21-year-old Kizer had turnovers on Cleveland’s final two possessions, denying the Browns (0-12) any chance at a comeback and dropping coach Hue Jackson to 1-27 in two seasons.
It was a discouraging performance for Kizer, who was coming off a solid game last week in Cincinnati. But against the Chargers, he missed some open throws, rushed others and then committed the ultimate sins by coughing up a fumble and throwing a pick in the fourth quarter.
This was another setback in a season of highs and lows for the second-round draft pick, who leads the NFL with 15 interceptions, has a league-worst 58.1 rating and fell to 0-11 as a starter.
It’s no wonder he wasn’t in a good mood after he and his teammates reviewed tape of another loss.
However, despite Kizer’s latest stumble, Jackson still feels he will develop into a dependable starter, and perhaps become Cleveland’s long-sought answer at the problematic position. Jackson predicted Kizer would struggle in his first season, but he’s seen that before.
“DeShone is still a growing young quarterback,” he said. “He is working extremely hard. He is trying his tail off to win for his football team, and I think sometimes in those moments, you kind of revert back.
“You are going to take the good with the bad. He has done some good things. He did some things that he has to continue to grow and learn from. I am not down on DeShone. I want DeShone to keep working at this thing.
“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. I think he has taken that challenge.”
Jackson said some of Kizer’s issues on Sunday could be attributed to his helmet headset not working properly.
Kizer was unable to decipher some play calls from Jackson and didn’t hear others, and the Browns were forced to use walkie-talkies on their sideline at StubHub Center.
“We will take it up with the league,” Jackson said. “We heard there was another team that had the same issue one time at that particular stadium.”
That was news to Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, who was unaware of the Browns’ technology trouble.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Lynne said. “We didn’t have any problems on our sidelines.”
Guard Joel Bitonio was initially puzzled why the Browns calls were coming in late, and said Kizer had to improvise and call some plays on his own.
“Hopefully we don’t have any more of those issues,” he said. “We’re going to have to turn into a high school team where we just have a guy run it in from the sideline all the time.”
Kizer can add the communication breakdown to a list of firsts in his NFL initiation. He’s been forced to learn the hard way, taking lumps and losses along the way.
“This experience for him is invaluable,” Jackson said. “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.”
Bitonio can relate.
He said it was understandable for Kizer to show up to work feeling a little depressed.
“It’s tough,” Bitonio said. “I think 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. ... The NFL has a great way of humbling you.”
NOTES: While Jackson supports Kizer, he knows the Browns may need to draft a QB high in the draft next year. As of now, Cleveland has the Nos. 1 and 7 selections. “We can’t have too many good quarterbacks right now on this football team,” he said. ... Browns said rookie S Jabrill Peppers did not sustain a serious knee injury.