When the Cleveland Browns started up again as an expansion team in 1999, their first major move was to draft Tim Couch over Donovan McNabb.
It’s been all downhill ever since for the Browns.
Couch was the first of 26 quarterbacks they’ve had since returning, while having just two winning seasons and one playoff appearance. They’ve gone 24 years without a division title.
The Browns have had more problems than just their inability to find another Otto Graham or Bernie Kosar or even Brian Sipe. They’ve been an organization in constant turmoil featuring a revolving door of coaches and front-office executives.
Three of their last four coaches lasted just two years. The fourth lasted just one year.
Hue Jackson was hired last year and went 1-15 with three quarterbacks – Cody Kessler, Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III – each throwing more than 100 passes.
It was obvious they had to address the quarterback position.
But with the second pick in the draft, they declined to take one of the three quarterbacks who went on the first round – Mitch Trubisky to the Chicago Bears, Pat Mahomes to the Kansas City Chiefs and DeShaun Watson to the Houston Texans.
They went for the best player and took linebacker Myles Garrett.
They then waited until the second round to take DeShone Kizer, who was an interesting choice.
Kizer started at Notre Dame as a redshirt freshman after Malik Zaire broke his leg in 2015. He won the job again last year with his showing in the 50-47 loss to Texas in double overtime in the opener, passing for five touchdowns while bringing the Irish back from a 31-17 deficit.
But he never seemed to be on the same page with coach Brian Kelly, who seemed quick to criticize Kizer as the Irish struggled to a 4-8 record.
After a 38-35 loss to Duke that dropped them to 1-3, Kelly said Kizer’s play was unacceptable.
In a 17-10 loss to Stanford that plummeted the Irish to 1-5, Kelly pulled Kizer for Zaire, then he put Kizer back in for the final drive. Kizer got them to the Stanford eight yard line before losing. Not exactly the textbook way of handling the quarterback position.
Not surprisingly, Kizer decided not to return and entered the NFL Draft.
Kelly said he should have returned to school and needed time to grow. Kelly was probably right about that, but it is understandable that Kizer didn’t want to play for him.
And Kizer found the love in Cleveland from Jackson that he didn’t get from Kelly, as Jackson virtually handed him the starting job.
Jackson started Brock Osweiler in the first two preseason games, probably in an attempt to showcase him and trade him. But that didn’t work, and they had to cut him. In a rather bizarre move, they got a second-round pick from the Texans to take Osweiler and his $16 million in guaranteed money off their hands.
Starting a rookie quarterback on a bad NFL team is often a recipe for disaster (see David Carr or Couch). Sometimes, they never recover.
But the Browns will have patience with Kizer. They showed they’re building for the future by collecting draft picks and dumping cornerback Joe Haden when he wouldn’t take a pay cut.
And Jackson says he can deal with losing at the start with Kizer.
“We’re going to make this happen,” Jackson said. “We’re going to work through this because I think he’s talented. This guy has the right stuff, and if I’m worth my salt as a coach, I’ll get it out of him, and if he’s willing to do the work, he’ll rise to the occasion. And I think he will.”
And Kizer, who grew up in Toledo although he wasn’t a Browns fans, knows the storied history of the team and says it is an “honor’’ to start for them.
Of course, he went to a college with a storied history and that didn’t work out well.
If nothing else, the Kizer move will make the Browns interesting — at least at the start of the season.
About the best the Browns can hope for is that Kizer isn’t traumatized by the experience, starting with the opener against Pittsburgh.
Hey, what do they have to lose but a bunch more games? The Browns have been there, done that.
Meanwhile, Kizer enters the season as the Browns’ quarterback of the future – if they have a future.