Hooley: Browns go with QB they didn't want

Brock Osweiler is the only Browns QB with an NFL victory

It is by definition a game that doesn't matter, but it seems to matter a lot to the Cleveland Browns, and I think that's a good thing.

The Browns open their exhibition season on Thursday and head coach Hue Jackson has stressed the importance of winning that game more than I ever remember any NFL coach prioritizing a preseason game.

That's a good thing, because if losing built character, the Browns would have a roster full of coaches and players you'd want to babysit your kids or safeguard your life savings.

Cleveland went 0-4 in the preseason a year ago and then won only once in the regular season. 

So, I get why Jackson wants to start establishing a culture of winning, even if it's in a game or throughout a preseason that won't transfer to the AFC North.

The question is, how do the Browns start winning if they can't score? That's what Jackson and team management must be struggling with this week after a Friday night scrimmage at First Energy Stadium in which none of their three quarterbacks could put the ball in the end zone.

The next day in a team scrimmage, it was the same story until presumed starter Cody Kessler finally put the ball in the end zone.

Unfortunately, he did it via an interception the defense returned for a touchdown.

Kessler failed to put points on the board in his three drives against the second team defense on Saturday. He overthrew an open receiver in the end zone once and had another ball that was almost intercepted.

Rookie DeShone Kizer did nothing to make up ground on Kessler on Friday and then Saturday got an extra chance in practice against the backups after failing against the starters.

So now you know why today, Hue Jackson named Brock Osweiler the starter Thursday night against the Saints.

It's not what Jackson wanted to do. Clearly, he'd prefer Kizer to win the job.

But throwing a rookie in too soon can ruin him. If any NFL franchise has proven that, it's the Browns.

Osweiler is the only one of the Browns four QBs who has recorded an NFL victory. He's 13-8 in his career, but Osweiler was just an afterthought in the Browns' minds when they took on his contract from Houston to get the second-round draft choice that came with Osweiler's $16-million payday.

Only the Browns would have a quarterback who's making that kind of coin and not in their plans unless they're forced to play him.

Osweiler doesn't have Favored Nation Status with the Browns because to elevate him to the starter would call into question the draft resources Cleveland has devoted to Kessler, a third-rounder, and Kizer, a second-rounder.

Which brings me back to how we started this conversation and Hue Jackson's hopes to win on Thursday to set a tone for the season. The Browns are never going to get anywhere if they remain more concerned about prioritizing players they drafted just so they'll look smart for drafting them, rather than picking the depth chart based upon who's best-equipped to do the job.

Who knows, maybe after 17 seasons of fitfully trying to find a quarterback via their own devices, the Browns might just stumble onto one by accident.

You can say that would never happen for the Browns, and I'd be inclined to believe you. But you never know.

I'm pretty sure the Patriots didn't plan on the geeky kid they took in the middle of the sixth round winning five super Bowls.

So, stranger things have happened.


Bruce Hooley

Bruce Hooley

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