Hue Jackson says the Browns saw something in Cody Kessler that others did not.
And on Tuesday, Cleveland's first-year coach reiterated the team's decision to select the former USC quarterback late in the third round of the NFL Draft this past weekend.
"The thing I like about him the most is he's a very accurate passer. He throws the ball very straight to the people who need to catch it. He understands the team game, that you have to take care of the football in order to win games. He understands there's a time to throw the ball away," Jackson said on the Browns' Post-Draft Special.
But most of all?
"People sometimes forget the most important function of a quarterback is winning and winning games and putting your team in a position to win. It's not about how strong your arm is or some of the characteristics everyone else looks for," said Jackson, who added the Browns' approach to evaluating quarterbacks might be "a little bit different than everybody else."
"But I see, and saw, and will continue to see a guy who's going to ascend into the National Football League and play when the time's right," Jackson said.
Jackson also made it clear Kessler best fit Cleveland's future plans compared against the prospects of drafting either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz — who went No. 1 and No. 2 to the Rams and Eagles, respectively— following widespread speculation the Browns would take one of those two quarterbacks prior to trading the second overall pick a week before draft day.
"I truly believe that the first two quarterbacks taken, I think everybody nationally thought we had a chance to have them be on our football team," Jackson said. "And those two guys are going to be very good players, there's no question about it. But at the same time, for us, that wasn't going to happen. So we had to go find the next-best quarterback for us — not for everybody else — but for us. And that's what we were able to do. And that guy's Cody Kessler."
Kessler, who holds the Trojans' record for career completion percentage and passed for 10,339 yards and 88 touchdowns in three seasons, received high marks in the draft process for his decision-making ability and leadership qualities.
The Browns wrapped up a busy third round Friday by selecting USC quarterback Cody Kessler with the No. 93 pick.
Against that backdrop, Jackson played down criticism of the pick, saying the Browns are going to trust in their processes and evaluation. "I knew -- I'm just being very honest -- I knew some people had an issue with that because some people didn't see dynamic arm talent or some people don't see what everybody wants to measure quarterback by," he said.
"But what I see is a guy that can play and function in a football system that we'll put together here and play extremely well, who has tremendous accuracy, who is a tremendous leader, who has a lot of the poise and he's tough. And he's been through a lot of situations. And when you look back, it kind of resembles some of the things that have happened here."
Kessler, who went through five coaching changes at USC, joins a quarterbacks room that includes Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III, Austin Davis and Connor Shaw. In his meeting with the local media Saturday, he said he wants to be a "sponge" when it comes to soaking up information from his veteran counterparts.
"I'm going to learn as much as I can from them and take everything I can and use that to my advantage. At the same time, the competitor in me comes out and it doesn't matter who's up, I am always going to compete as hard as I can," he said. "I think that's the goal of everyone that comes into an organization to compete at a starting spot. If that's reality or not, that's the mindset you have to have to prepare as a starter. I'm not going to change that now."
Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown added: "We like the idea of competition. We talked about that when Hue arrived on campus here back in January. That is exactly what we wanted to do, which was breed some competition within our locker room by adding a lot of young men who are passionate about playing the game and not afraid of the competition. We like that. I know all of our guys in our locker room will be excited to add Cody to the mix."
Asked if felt pressure to compete with Goff, Wentz, and other quarterbacks in this year's draft class, Kessler said he comes to the Browns with a workmanlike attitude.
"I've always been an underdog. I come from Bakersfield, which it's not known for a whole lot. I've worked for everything that I've got. I was third string my sophomore year behind a guy that was supposed to be the next starter there. I kind of put my head down, kept my mouth shut and worked as hard as could," he said.
"I ended up becoming a three-year starter when I wasn't supposed to. Coming into this process, I've always kind of kept that blue collar work ethic throughout my whole life.
"That's kind of why I was so drawn to Cleveland. I love the fans and everything around it and all the sports programs are kind of blue collar and it's a hard-working town. I think that's why it's a perfect fit for me."