The Browns decided to give rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer a baptism by blast furnace, with his first career start in his first career game coming against the Pittsburgh Steelers. By Week Four, Kizer will have played each of the other three teams from the AFC North, and Kizer believes that will help him immensely down the road.
“The grit and the toughness that comes in this division, when we play other divisions, it just gives us a different mentality,” Kizer said Friday, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “That toughness that you have is what football is all about.
“When you are playing against three of the better defenses in the country twice a year, you are going to create a mindset that allows you to go elsewhere and dominate teams. Our ability right now to play against these guys and get these experiences are going to be things that motivate us and drive us to leave our division, leave our conference and go have success.”
Of course, the Browns already have left the division once, and their game against the Colts at Indy didn’t go as well as the oddsmakers had envisioned. But regardless of who the Browns are playing, Kizer’s experiences now will help him later.
Yes, it’s been rocky. 52.8-percent completion rate. Three touchdown passes against seven interceptions. An anemic 53.2 passer rating. Two fumbles, one lost. Unless, however, the experience ruins him (it likely won’t), it will allow him to improve, sooner or later and definitely far sooner than if he wasn’t playing.
Every young quarterback has a ceiling. As Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy explained on Friday’s PFT Live on Friday (and as he reiterated in an off-air conversation on Saturday), no quarterback reaches that ceiling by sitting. Whatever Kizer ultimately will be, he’ll get there faster by playing.
Look at Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Neither was supposed to play as rookies in 2016. Both did (for very different reasons), and both of the players (and both of their teams) are much better off because they did.
Dungy’s comments from Friday (and Saturday) focused on the Bears’ bizarre refusal to put rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on the field. But the concept applies to all rookie quarterbacks, especially those taken high in the draft. If a team believes in the player enough to make that investment, the team needs to play him — except in rare circumstances (e.g., the Packers, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers in 2005; the Chiefs, Alex Smith, and Patrick Mahomes in 2017).
Yes, Trubisky will take his lumps in 2017. But so what? The Bears already are taking their lumps and there could be even more lumps in 2018 if Trubisky doesn’t have the benefit of some on-the-job experience this year. And if Trubisky plays well in 2018, the argument will be that he would have been even better if he’d gotten a chance to begin building a brain bank of in-game experience and to commence the process of slowing the game down.