GREEN BAY, Wis. — This is DeShone Kizer, the quarterback who had an 0-15 record as the Cleveland Browns‘ starter last season:
“The average life span is 80 years,” he said. “I’m on Year 22. That’s already only a small percentage of my life, and one year of my life is never going to define my 80 years. For me, this game is something I love. It’s something I do, but it’s not who I am. What I can gain from last year are things that I will take on — which is the character that it takes to go through something like, the leadership that it takes to try to lead a bunch of older guys as a rookie. There’s small things within the year, but there’s no reason to hang that on me.”
This is DeShone Kizer, the quarterback who turned it over twice on three first-half possessions — a sack-fumble and a pick-six — Sunday night in his Green Bay Packers debut after Aaron Rodgers sprained his left knee:
“He had a great halftime speech right before we went out for the second half, but obviously Aaron came back and played,” receiver Randall Cobb said of the Packers’ comeback victory over the Chicago Bears.
This is DeShone Kizer, the quarterback who took all the starter’s reps both Wednesday and Thursday while Rodgers rehabbed in an effort to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings:
“If my number is called, I think I’ll be able to go out there and have some success,” Kizer said.
At this point, Kizer is on hold, waiting like everyone else to find out whether Rodgers will play. The vibe in the locker room, according to one player, is that Rodgers will give it a try, although coach Mike McCarthy on Thursday said “it’s no layup” that Rodgers plays.
The records will show that Kizer’s debut with the Packers was his two-turnover fiasco against the Bears.
Just like 0-15, that can never be erased.
But in one sense, Kizer’s true beginning came three days later. With Rodgers at Lambeau Field to receive treatment, Kizer was across Oneida Street on the practice field and in charge of the offense. It was the first time since the Packers traded for him in March that the offense was his to run. Even in June, when McCarthy excused Rodgers and selected veterans from the mandatory minicamp, Kizer played behind then-No. 2 Brett Hundley.
“I think I’m coming out confident in the sense that with the week of installing new looks, installing against a really good defense, a defense that a lot of people have played in this locker room,” Kizer said. “It was cool for me to step in and take on their experiences and try to regurgitate them out on the field. I think I did a halfway decent job. There’s a lot of things you can correct in practice, but for the most part I think I really understand what we’re trying to do. I understand what their defense is trying to do. If my number is called, I think I’ll be able to go out there and have some success.”
If that happens, Rodgers will have had a hand in it.
Although he wasn’t on the practice field Wednesday or Thursday, Rodgers sat alongside Kizer and No. 3 quarterback Tim Boyle in the afternoon meetings, and they watched the practice film.
“It calls for a really cool way of going about things,” Kizer said. “When I’m out there, I’ve got to do what I know, and when I come into the meeting room, then I can see the different layers of things you can also do through the different experiences that [No.] 12 has had.”
None of that matters, however, if Kizer can’t take care of the ball. He threw a league-high 22 interceptions as a rookie last season, and with another in the season opener on a botched screen pass that Khalil Mack returned for a touchdown, his interception total of 23 is six more than the next-highest offender (Ben Roethlisberger) since the start of 2017.
“You can’t play quarterback, period, if you don’t take care of the football,” McCarthy said. “The center and quarterback handle the football every play. So if you look at our history here as far as turnover ratio, the amount of time and the energy that puts into the drilling, taking care of the football, it’s been a real strength — and it’s a tremendous strength — of Aaron Rodgers and how he plays the position. So DeShone definitely needs to learn from those two plays. What went on last year, he’s a rookie, he’s young.”
Said Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: “If anybody can define him as an 0-15 quarterback, I don’t respect anybody who believes that. You can’t blame one kid for going 0-15 as a rookie trying to lead a National Football League team. One person can’t win a game; well, I guess one person can win a game, but he can’t do it by himself.”