It’s all but officially decided. Say hello, Browns fans, to your new quarterback.
When coach Hue Jackson Wednesday named Brock Osweiler as the starter Monday night against the invading New York Giants in exhibition game No. 2, it pretty much ended rampant speculation that rookie DeShone Kizer had a shot at starting the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The quarterback many thought was nothing more than an expensive way for the Browns (taking Osweiler’s $16 million contract off the Houston Texans’ payroll) to obtain another second-round selection in the next college draft will be the team’s opening-day quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10.
The club has not made an official announcement to that effect. That most likely will arrive within days (if not sooner) following the third exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the so-called dress rehearsal game, on Aug. 26.
Barring any unforeseen developments, such as an injury or the team shockingly trading him, the lanky kid from Kalispell, Mont., and Arizona State University will become the 27th starting quarterback for the team since 1999. And, by the way, the tallest ever at 6-7.
Jackson begged to differ with those who surmise Osweiler has won the quarterback competition. “It (starting the Giants exhibition) doesn’t mean anything for the regular season,” he argued. “This is (for) this game.” Whatever you say, coach. Tell that to your left tackle.
“Now I could be totally wrong,” Joe Thomas told the media. “I might be going out on a limb here, but I think they’re grooming Brock to be the starter in week one based on what I’ve seen.”
The only way Kizer had any chance of facing the Steelers was starting against the Giants. The situation was perfect. It is a home game in front of a friendly crowd and he would be working with the first team.
It would have given Jackson the opportunity to see his prize rookie in a situation that would be the closest to mirroring a regular-season game. That’s not going to happen now unless he starts Kizer, sans starters, in the ultra meaningless fourth exhibition in Chicago.
Kizer will take over for Osweiler against the Giants probably sometime either midway through or late in the second quarter before turning the huddle over to Cody Kessler and maybe Kevin Hogan in the second half.
Unless Jackson wants to stretch his starters into the second half, chances are Kizer will work with second and third stringers. All of which means he is Jackson’s choice to back up Osweiler in the regular season.
Maybe that’s because the coach doesn’t believe Kizer is ready to start against live fire once the meaningful games begin, preferring the much more experienced Osweiler, especially against a team like the Steelers.
Throwing the rookie into that cauldron right out of the chute could be harmful since he has not seen the real speed of the game – it ratchets up significantly – when money is on the line.
Kizer says the game has slowed up for him in training camp. Maybe it has relatively speaking. But he has no idea what lies ahead. Jackson does and, after witnessing and charting Kizer’s progress, apparently has decided the kid’s starting debut in the regular season will have to wait. Smart move.
Osweiler, in the meantime, hasn’t exactly wowed Jackson and the coaching staff in training camp, but the coach cannot ignore his 21 National Football League starts in the last two seasons and 13-8 record as a starter. That’s the big difference.
He has a strong arm, knows how to command a huddle and is the only quarterback in camp comfortable lining up under center. Considering the rugged start of the schedule (home to Pittsburgh, at Baltimore, at Indianapolis and home to Cincinnati), Jackson made the wisest choice in choosing him.
The fact he is still on the roster is somewhat of an upset since the Texans surrendered the second rounder – the Browns now have three selections in that round – in next year’s draft as a reward for taking Osweiler’s massive contract for this season off their hands.
After a contentious 2016 season with the Texans, just about everyone believed he wasn’t long for Cleveland after the trade. But when Browns’ front office could not swing a deal to dump him and his salary, he just hung around.
He kept his mouth shut, worked hard on the field and in the classroom and now here he is the starting quarterback. He did everything the right way and has reaped the rewards.
Kessler, favored by many observers to win the starting job at the onset of training camp, disappointed with an uneven performance and most likely will end up as the third quarterback with Hogan, if he clears waivers, back on the practice squad.
For right now, Osweiler is THE MAN.