Hue Jackson has been here before.
These aren't unchartered waters for the second-year Browns coach, as Jackson helps rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer prepare for the Ravens and his first true NFL road game this weekend. Back in 2008, Jackson played a key role in molding then-rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who — much like Kizer — opened his career with three straight games against AFC North rivals. He served as Flacco's quarterbacks coach in 2008 and 2009, guiding him through a rookie season that ended with an AFC Championship appearance against, wouldn't you know it, another AFC North team.
Now a decade later, he'll return to M&T Bank Stadium in a familiar situation following a narrow loss to the Steelers on Sunday in the season opener.
"We played Pittsburgh three times that first year (2008) if I'm not mistaken and having to go through that with him and how difficult that was, but there were lessons in there that I'm sure (Flacco) used later on to get to where he is today," Jackson said Wednesday. "DeShone is going through that now. He played Pittsburgh last week. Here we go again on the road against Baltimore. That's not an easy task."
Kizer showed plenty of promise and poise in his debut, passing for 222 yards and combining for two touchdowns. The hope is that he takes another step against a stingy Ravens defense that shutout Cincinnati in their opener.
Kizer, who earned the team's starting job last month after impressing his teammates both on and off the field, made clear Jackson hasn't compared the two signal-callers.
"I come from a completely different background, a completely different mindset. I think I have a different set of skills than Joe had as a rookie," Kizer said. "Coach has done a good job of creating a unique situation for me that has allowed me to be the best quarterback that I can be."
But like Flacco, Jackson said Kizer is poised to learn from back-to-back challenging games.
"The scheduling sure isn't nice to us," he said, laughing, "but that's OK because the growth that he will get out of these two games and growing as a football player, as a quarterback, as the leader of this football team, as a guy in the locker room and as a guy who is the face of this organization, this is what it is all about. This is how you build a quarterback."