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Browns say they’ll wait to play DeShone Kizer this season. History says otherwise

Rushing a rookie quarterback into the lineup is a proud Cleveland tradition.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With another long rebuilding year in store and a promising quarterback in Cody Kessler behind center, the Browns don’t have much reason to rush 2017 second-round draft pick DeShone Kizer into the starting lineup. History suggests they will anyway.

Cleveland executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown told 92.3 The Fan he would take his time with the former Notre Dame passer in order to allow his latest high-ceiling prospect to prosper.

"Ideally we'd be able to come in and give DeShone some time ... make sure he understands that he doesn't feel like he has to have the pressure on him to be the week one starter or even the 2017 starter at some point. We like Cody, we like Brock [Osweiler], we like Kevin [Hogan] and he doesn't need to feel that pressure,” Brown said, namedropping the franchise’s underwhelming cache of passers in the process.

He also hinted the team may not be done adding passers, even with four quarterbacks currently on the roster.

“We won’t rest until we solidify that position,” Brown said. “That may be in next year’s draft, it may be in free agency, it may be via trade. But again, Brock, Cody, and Kevin are here working hard and we’re going to support them as best we can.”

While team executives may be primed to wait on Kizer’s development, a look at the Browns’ recent past could mean we’ll be seeing the first-year quarterback take the field with the starters by the end of 2017. Cleveland has drafted nine passers since its NFL reboot in 1999. Only one, Brady Quinn, failed to start at least one game as a rookie.

Browns' quarterback draftees and how long it took for them to start

Player Year Pick Games Until He Was a Starter
Player Year Pick Games Until He Was a Starter
Cody Kessler 2016 93 2
Johnny Manziel 2014 22 13
Brandon Weeden 2012 22 0
Colt McCoy 2010 85 5
Brady Quinn 2007 22 24
Charlie Frye 2005 67 11
Luke McCown 2004 106 11
Spergon Wynn 2000 183 13
Tim Couch 1999 1 1

On average, it has taken fewer than nine games for the Browns to get desperate and throw their latest young passer into the starting lineup. The results haven’t been pretty. Those nine quarterbacks have a combined 50-131 record behind center. Tim Couch is the only one to have double-digit wins as a starter.

Though 2017 may be different, injuries and general mismanagement has meant the presence of other young prospects on the roster hasn’t stopped Cleveland from inserting rookie QBs into the lineup in years past. Spergon Wynn and his 40 percent completion rate was forced to step in for a battered Couch in 2000. 29-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden snuffed out Colt McCoy’s tenure with the team just three years after McCoy had been drafted. Two years later, Johnny Manziel did the same to Weeden.

In all, the team has had 27 different starting quarterbacks since 1999. The Patriots, by comparison, have had five.

Kessler’s presence could stem that trend in 2017. The young passer had his share of struggles last fall, but rated out as the team’s top quarterback despite his 0-8 record. However, injuries were a concern; he missed time after suffering multiple concussions in 2016.

The Browns are saying all the right things after a solid draft, but saying and doing are two different things — especially in Cleveland. The franchise’s inability to develop a cornerstone quarterback has mired it in a 23-year slump without a postseason victory. While slow and steady seems like the proper course for a raw prospect like Kizer, history suggests the Browns will turn to him somewhere around Week 10 to appease a restless fan base.

Unless he can reverse a decades-long trend, the results won’t be pretty.