BEREA — After weeks of speculation, analysis and evaluation, the Browns’ quarterback competition is headed into its home stretch.
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas believes it’s over — Brock Osweiler will start the season opener on Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh.
“I could be totally wrong,” Thomas said Wednesday. “I might be going out on a limb here, but I think they’re grooming Brock to be the starter in Week 1 based on what I’ve seen.”
Thomas has seen it all — and then some — during 10 seasons with Cleveland. He’s witnessed the Browns bungle enough quarterback decisions that he’s hoping the team gets it right this time.
His preference is for the Browns to show patience and not rush rookie DeShone Kizer, the second-round pick who has had an impressive camp and rallied the team to a win in his exhibition debut. Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, could very well be ready, but Thomas feels the more prudent approach is to let him learn while watching Osweiler.
“It is a competition, but I would expect Brock to win because of his experience,” he said. “And a rookie quarterback is the hardest position to get ready to play in your first year. So there’s no doubt he (Kizer) could win the competition. I definitely would expect probably Brock to win it just because my personal philosophy is as a quarterback it takes at least two or three years to have a basic level of understanding of NFL defenses and offenses to be able to operate proficiently out there on the field, especially in Week 1.”
As expected, coach Hue Jackson picked Osweiler to start his second straight preseason game when the Browns host the New York Giants on Monday night. Kizer will play second, with Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan getting time after that.
“It doesn’t mean anything for the regular season,” Jackson said. “This is this game.”
Kizer was the third QB used in the exhibition opener, but Jackson moved him ahead of Kessler this week so he gets snaps against better competition.
Jackson added the starter of the third exhibition game on Aug. 26 at Tampa Bay “has got a very good chance of trotting out there the first game against the Steelers.”
As a team leader and 10-time Pro Bowler, Thomas has opinions that matter greatly to Jackson. He consults with him on major decisions, and Thomas said that “99 times out of 100 we’re on the same page.”
Osweiler’s rise from a Houston reject to likely starter may be improbable, but Thomas has been impressed with the way the veteran has gone about his business.
He may have been a longshot, but Osweiler, who went 8-6 last season as a starter before the Texans traded him in March, has displayed all the characteristics Thomas wants in a starter.
“He’s got the ‘it’ factor when it comes to being a quarterback,” Thomas said. “He’s got the leadership and the understanding and the communication skills that it takes to be a starting quarterback. When he’s in the game and when he’s in the practice, it’s got that feel of an NFL quarterback. … He gets the ball, he drops back, he throws the ball on time to where it’s supposed to be thrown.
“It’s not always perfect, but that is like the minimum that you have to have to be a good starting quarterback in the NFL. If you can’t do that, you can’t play in the NFL.”
Kizer’s day will arrive. Thomas just hopes it’s not anytime soon.
While he’s got all the tools: size, smarts, pedigree and a big arm, Kizer lacks experience. And as far as Thomas is concerned, there’s no way to accelerate the time needed to learn.
It’s challenging to be patient, especially for a team that’s coveted a franchise quarterback for two decades. But Thomas feels pushing Kizer along too quickly could backfire.
“Just because DeShone may be good in a few years doesn’t mean you want to throw him in before he’s ready,” he said. “I’ve been on teams where they throw a guy in there because he’s a first-round pick or he’s the guy that the front office says well you’ve got to play this guy and it doesn’t always work out for the player or the team. The team ends up usually losing and the player loses confidence in himself because they’re just not ready.
“So while I think DeShone’s done an amazing job and he’s exceeded most people’s expectations, that doesn’t necessarily just mean he’s ready to be the starter tomorrow.
“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done before I think he’s ready and you don’t want to see a guy lose his confidence and lose his swagger by being played before he’s ready.”