CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns’ decision to switch quarterbacks this week, going from rookie DeShone Kizer to second-year pro Kevin Hogan, shouldn’t have been a big surprise.
Changing quarterbacks has been a franchise tradition since the Browns re-entered the NFL as an expansion team in 1999. Tim Couch was the last quarterback to start all 16 games in a season, and that was all the way back in 2002.
Furthermore, Hue Jackson sounded like a man coaching for his job following last Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the New York Jets that dropped the Browns to 0-5. Jackson, who is 1-20 in two seasons with the Browns, benched Kizer in favor of Hogan at the beginning of the second half after saying a week earlier that he and the rookie were “joined at the hip” following a 31-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We go into every game trying to win,” Jackson said. “That is our goal. That is our job. That is my job. I’m not here just to get players better. That is part of it, but it is also to win. I think if there is a decision that needs to be made to win, that is the decision I am going to make.”
Whether Hogan can make a difference Sunday when the Browns visit the Houston Texans (2-3) remains to be seen, but Jackson feels it is worth a shot.
“We’ve liked what Kevin has been able to do within our offense when he’s been in there, and he will start on Sunday because that’s what we feel is best for our team at this point in time,” Jackson said. “This does not change the way we feel about DeShone going forward. He has worked extremely hard and still very much has a bright future. Right now, it’s better for him and his development to back up Kevin.”
Hogan has matched Kizer’s total of three touchdown passes this season despite throwing 121 fewer passes.
Hogan has a 68.4 completion percentage (26 of 38) for 377 yards and has been intercepted twice. Meanwhile, Kizer has been picked off an NFL-worst nine times while completing just 50.9 percent of his passes (81 of 159) for 851 yards.
Kizer’s 49.5 passer rating is also the worst in the NFL. Hogan has a 104.8 mark after completing 16 of 19 against the Jets for 194 yards and two touchdowns while being intercepted once.
Hogan will become the 28th quarterback to start for the Browns in their 19 seasons. The Kansas City Chiefs selected him in the fifth round of last year’s NFL Draft from Stanford, then released him at the end of the preseason.
“It’s another opportunity to go out there and play some ball, which I love,” Hogan said. “I played a lot of games in college, and when I was out there the other day, it felt like I was in college again. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’m going to prepare my butt off this week for the guys around me and make sure they have confidence in me and trust me to lead them, so that I’m feeling good going into Sunday.”
The Browns feel they finally were to establish the running game last week when they had 140 yards on 33 attempts. If they can do so again against the Texans, it would take pressure off Hogan to carry the entire offensive load.
Jackson has also been impressed by the offensive line’s play in recent weeks.
“The offensive line the last two weeks have personally given up zero sacks,” Jackson said. “We had one sack (last week) and that was on our quarterback at that particular point in time. It was not on the offensive line. The week before I think we had two and those were both on our quarterback, so they have improved.”
Hogan also catches a break in that the Texans’ defense took a big hit in last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. End J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus suffered season-ending injuries.
However, the Browns won’t take advantage of the weakened defense if they continue to be plagued by turnovers. Their average of 2.6 giveaways per game is the worst in the league.
“We’ve kind of taken a step forward, but the same thing each game is the turnovers,” Brown running back Duke Johnson said. “We’re moving the ball better, running the ball better and being more efficient, but we’re still turning the ball over. Even though Coach Jackson reminds us every week about turnovers and turnover ratios in the NFL, we have to go out there and learn the hard way, I guess.”
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