The day after his rookie season came to an end, DeShone Kizer expressed disappointment in being unable to lift the Browns to a win in 2017. But the quarterback believes he'll grow from a year of highs, lows and everything in between.
"This has been a great learning experience, and I was blessed enough to have a support team who kept continuously reminding me of what this season is and how small of a piece of my career it's going to be," Kizer said Monday. "It is just about doing whatever we can to maximize it and taking these lessons for what they are and learning from them."
The latest lesson came in Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Steelers, which handed Cleveland its first-ever winless season. Although far from perfect, Kizer combined for almost 400 yards — including a career-high 314 yards passing — and two touchdowns in his 15th and final start of the year. A late interception and dropped pass on fourth-and-2, though, spoiled that showing.
Kizer, a second-round pick, showed promise throughout the season but struggled with turnovers. He threw 11 touchdowns against a league-high 22 interceptions while completing 54 percent of his passes. Those struggles played a big role in an offense that led the league in turnovers and finished last in points per game. Against that backdrop, the Browns have made clear they need to establish an answer at the quarterback position, whether it's Kizer, adding a veteran in free agency or through the 2018 NFL Draft.
Browns coach Hue Jackson said Kizer firmly remains in that mix.
"DeShone is a young player who we drafted on this team. He started the first game that we played this year. I think DeShone has the necessary tools to be a good player to play in this league We just have to continue to work with him and get him over this," Jackson said.
"I just think it's really early to write him off or really early to say he is 'the guy' because I think we all know we are going to continue to add good football players to this team. We will look to add people at the quarterback position, as well, just like any other position on our team. At the same time, there is a lot of experience and growth that he had this year because he went through the whole season for the most part that he is going to be able to grow from in the offseason. I think that will be important for him."
Kizer said he plans on using the offseason to take what he learned from this season and apply it to next year.
In his end-of-year press conference, Jackson said the Browns need to "re-recruit" a fan base that's had to endure back-to-back disappointing seasons. Kizer added he wants to do his part in giving Cleveland something to believe in.
"They don't want to see the celebrity status. They don't want to see you out and about trying to build your brand. They want to see you becoming a better football player," he said.
"Throughout this offseason, I'll be committed to that and to showing that I'm going to continue to have the same work ethic that I had Day 1 when I got here because that is what put me on the path to the starting position player. Now in order to take the next step in my game, I have to go back out and prove to these fans that I can be the quarterback that they want me to be for a long time."