Football

NFL season starts with hope – even in Cleveland. David Carr says it’s all about Hue

Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer is in a place to succeed playing for coach Hue Jackson, NFL Network anaylst and Fresno Bee columnist David Carr says.
Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer is in a place to succeed playing for coach Hue Jackson, NFL Network anaylst and Fresno Bee columnist David Carr says. Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns have four quarterbacks on the roster and between them they have played in a total of 13 NFL games, have eight starts and zero wins. But that’s OK, because coach Hue Jackson is the perfect coach to be in that situation right now.

The Browns’ starter, rookie DeShone Kizer is an interesting prospect for Jackson, who is one of the top five guys in the NFL who can game plan, manipulate coverage and defensive structures to fit your personnel.

There are coaches – the Saints’ Sean Payton for example – that when you watch film you see a guy with the ability to create offense for their quarterback. There’s not a lot of them, especially in the NFL. It’s hard to do. But Jackson is one of those guys. He did it in Cincinnati forever. He did it when he was with the Raiders for that short period of time.

Carson Palmer can’t say enough good things about the guy. He absolutely loves Hue Jackson and every quarterback I’ve ever talked to who has played for him says the exact same thing. You see it on film, also. He just finds completions for you.

Andy Dalton, I guarantee you he misses Jackson in Cincinnati. They’re not going to be the same team and they haven’t been since he left – 10-5-1 and 12-4 with Jackson in 2014 and ’15 and then 6-9-1 and out of the playoffs last season.

So I don’t have a problem putting Kizer out there with Jackson calling the plays.

Watching Kizer at the NFL Draft combine and when he was going through the pre-draft stuff, he reminds me of Cam Newton when he’s running around and he reminds me of Jameis Winston when he’s in the pocket. He’s a big, talented guy who can throw the ball down the field with accuracy and he’s going to be fun to watch.

He might even make the Browns exciting.

You’re talking about rolling a rookie out there on Day One, and that’s hard. But if you think you can protect him well enough, then do it. You might see some flashes that this guy can turn into your franchise quarterback.

I think the coaching staff is going to have to play a huge role in getting DeShone ready and making sure he feels comfortable with the game plan week to week.

But the Browns have some players. They have some guys who they can move around and match up with people. And Jackson is as good as you can get on first and second downs and manageable down and distance on third downs.

The hard part for Kizer is going to be his decision-making. Coaches can put together a good plan, but the guy pulling the trigger has to see it and he has to be able to rip it early.

I see a lot of guys struggle on third downs when the defensive looks change dramatically. I know coordinators who will show you a couple of looks in the first quarter, let you go to the sideline and fix them, and they’ll never show you that look again. They’ll show you completely different looks the rest of the game, so you always find yourself a quarter behind and you never catch up. I experienced that myself early on. I know Derek did. You have to be really on it.

That’s where the coach can help out, but the quarterback has to take ownership there. Third down, red zone, you get down there tight, you want your team to score points. First and second down you can move the ball, you can drop back to pass. If play-action isn’t there you can scoot and get some yards like Dak Prescott did last year.

The running game is critical to Kizer’s success, too. And I think the Cleveland defense will play better this year, and that will help a young quarterback.

The Browns max out at six or seven wins. If they get eight I’m going to be shocked. But it’s going to be something they can build on.

So, yes, there might be hope for Cleveland. We’ll have to wait and see. I’ll be watching them, though. I like watching good offensive football, or at least guys who know how to create stuff, and Hue Jackson is always fun.

Question of the week

From Shane Lare: I have been a Die Hard Raiders fan my whole life. There was a time they were the Los Angeles Raiders, but for me they will always be the Oakland Raiders. What is your take on the move to Las Vegas as far as the pros and cons?

David Carr: From a player’s standpoint, it’s a long way away. Football years are almost like dog years. If it’s two years away, it’s almost like 14 for us. The players, they’re just focused on the season and the next practice and the next game and trying to go win a championship. It’s so far away. When I talked to Derek about it, it’s not even on his radar. We’ve said maybe two things about it since the announcement and that’s it.

For the fans in Oakland, I think they should feel good about the fact that the guys on that team are trying to win a championship for the city of Oakland. What a way to go out, to find a way to pull one of those out or a couple of those out before they left. It would be incredible. That remains to be seen, but I’m excited from that standpoint that they at least get to finish out on an extended stay and get a chance to do something special for the city.

David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.

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