Deshone Kizer was the Cleveland Browns’ symbol for failure for his year with the team and his failure in the NFL lays on Hue Jackson’s head.
Everyone talks about how nice Hue Jackson is, and there’s no reason to doubt that. He’s probably a lovely man. Yet, despite everything ESPN and the NFL Network would say bout Jackson, like how he was unfairly fired, he never proved to anyone that he could actually do the job he was hired for. At least as a head coach. We all know the story of Jackson, three wins in 2.5 years? Come on. Yet, it wasn’t his win/loss record that proved Jackson was never qualified to lead the Cleveland Browns.
It was DeShone Kizer.
“If I’m worth my salt as a coach, I’ll get the most out of DeShone Kizer,” Jackson said of his then-rookie quarterback who was struggling to put it all together. Kizer has just been let go by his third NFL team, as Oakland has decided that Kizer isn’t the guy. Considering how terrible of a talent evaluator head coach Jon Gruden can be, especially at the quarterback spot, for him to give up on Kizer shows you just how bad Kizer’s been.
Now, Jackson shouldn’t take all responsibility on Kizer’s failings. He never should’ve been drafted in the first place. To be clear, this isn’t intended to mean he “shouldn’t have been drafted in the second round.” No, at all. Ever. Period. He was never an NFL caliber quarterback at Notre Dame. Why he got drafted at all, let alone in the second round will be something that baffles the mind for years to come.
Kizer was terribly inaccurate in his rookie year in Cleveland, completing only 53% of his passes. Why is that shocking? His last year in college he only completed 58% of his passes. Why is everyone surprised that an inaccurate passer was inaccurate? Generally speaking, if you’re inaccurate in college then you’re going to be inaccurate in the pros. Sure there’s outliers and guys who improve but for the most part, if you got a sub 60% thrower in college, that’s what he’ll be in the pros.
Jackson’s steadfast endorsement of him showed how little Jackson truly knew about the game. Now, you could argue that he’s a great quarterback coach but was forced into having Kizer as his quarterback. Well, that’s not how being a head coach works. If you want to start someone else, it’s literally in one’s job description to do just that but let’s pretend that’s the case. You could even argue that Jackson knew Kizer was bad and was so confident in his own abilities to develop players that he thought he could do the impossible. Sure, but that’s also part of the issue, isn’t? Not knowing when to cut the cord?
As for his comments, you don’t need to put your reputation on the line to back a player. What happened by the old standby “(Player) is our starting quarterback and we’re supporting him.” You don’t need to mortgage your credibility and perception to support a player.
Jackson never got the most out of Kizer, who’ll soon be out of the league and the only lasting mark that he’ll have left is that Jackson quote. It perfectly sums up just how bad the decision was not just to draft Kizer but to hire Jackson.
There’s little hope that Kizer gets picked up by another NFL team, despite only being 24. The CFL is calling and Kizer would be wise to pick up the phone. Who knows, he might actually put it all together up north. Hell, Cameron Wake did and he’s a borderline Hall of Famer now.
As for Jackson, whether his proclamation was driven by his hubris or simply a revelation of how unqualified he was as a coach in the NFL, his words will linger as a resounding reminder at just how bad his two-plus years were in Cleveland.