BEREA, OHIO— Hue Jackson heard the frustrations of fans and the questions from critics following Cleveland’s selection of USC quarterback Cody Kessler in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Friday.
He had one simple response.
“I understand where everybody is coming from,” Jackson said, “but you’ve got to trust me on this one.”
Taking full responsibility for his shiny, new quarterback, Jackson, the supposed QB guru, felt that Kessler was the best option for the Browns for one overarching reason.
“Because this guy, young man has pinpoint accuracy,” Jackson said.
Jackson is not wrong in his assertion, at least when referring to the numbers.
Over his four years with the Trojans, Kessler completed 67.5% (851-for-1261) of his pass attempts for 10,339 yards, 88 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, helping Jackson to prove his point that the quarterback can put the ball in the right spots for receivers.
“Tremendous, tremendous touchdown-interception ratio, knows how to play in a pro style offense, has a lot of characteristics that we look for in a quarterback,” Jackson said. “Doing a lot of work on him, it showed that way.”
While the numbers work in Kessler’s favor, there are a few factors working against the former Trojan.
First of all, Kessler stands at 6’1, 220 pounds, making him a bit smaller than the prototypical NFL quarterback.
Then comes Kessler’s arm strength, which has been questioned throughout the evaluation process.
Finally, there comes the drop-off in production from Kessler as a junior to a senior.
As a junior, Kessler threw for 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns with just five interceptions, before throwing for 3,536 yards, 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a senior.
Jackson addressed all of the aforementioned “issues” and had an answer for each, starting with the quarterback’s size.
“(Size), that’s never been the deal for me,” Jackson said. “It’s about playing quarterback – can you play quarterback and win in this league and do you have the characteristics that we feel are very important.”
When it comes to the lack of arm strength, Jackson, again, feels that it's an overrated characteristic.
He also feels that Kessler overcomes it with the incredible accuracy.
“Accuracy – can he throw the ball straight and accurate to the person that he is throwing it to,” Jackson said. “If he can’t do that, he can’t play in the National Football League very long. He does that as well as anybody, in my opinion, in this draft.”
The significant drop-off in Kessler’s numbers from his junior year to his senior season?
“Coaching change, it makes a huge difference,” Jackson said, referring to USC's switch from Steve Sarkisian to Clay Helton in the middle of the 2015 season. “Anywhere across the National Football League or college football, I think that all affects every man and young man differently.”
Though he acknowledged the drop in production, Jackson felt that Kessler maintained the most important aspect of his game, even as the numbers dwindled.
“Obviously, you change systems, you do things a little bit different than what you’ve been accustomed to,” Jackson said. “He was still very accurate. He almost completed 68% of his passes.”
After dispelling all of the aforementioned issues, there was still a lingering concern.
Even if Kessler was the guy for the Browns, why did the team feel it needed to take the quarterback at the end of the third round, far before he was expected to be off the board?
Again, the answer from Jackson was simple.
“We wanted to add another quarterback to our room,” Jackson said. “We thought it was the right time for this guy to be on our football team.”
It remains to be seen what will come of Cody Kessler as a Cleveland Brown, but Jackson is extremely confident in his guy.
The fans, though they may not be as confident as the coach, will simply have to wait— and trust— and see.
“We really think this guy is the right fit for us and for our football team,” Jackson said. “(I am) very excited about him.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.