HOUSTON -- Just when it appeared that the Cleveland Browns couldn't do anything to more closely resemble a rudderless ship, a game like Sunday unfolds and the bar of expectation is lowered.
Against the backdrop of facing a thriving rookie quarterback they could have drafted in April, the Browns faltered in a 33-17 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium days after benching their own rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer in favor of second-year signal-caller Kevin Hogan.
Over five starts, Kizer produced results worthy of a demotion, completing just 50.9 percent of his attempts and leading the league with nine interceptions. The Browns (0-6) ranked near the bottom of the NFL in several offensive categories with Kizer at the helm, a far cry from the sizzling start enjoyed by Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has taken the NFL by storm.
Benching Kizer seemed a dubious call given the lack of supporting talent and his status as the quarterback of the immediate future. Considering the Browns' plight, Kizer might need more reps, not a clipboard.
Putting a positive spin on the decision, Kizer was at least engaged while watching on Sunday.
"Probably in between every series I had conversations with DeShone," Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. "I wanted to make sure he was learning and was growing and what he saw. We went back and forth on things. He was really into it. I thought he saw some things he can grow from. I heard growth out of him and that's what matters."
Hogan struggled in his first career start, tossing three interceptions, including a pick-six by Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, while absorbing four sacks. He completed fewer than half of his attempts, posted a 38.1 passer rating, and did little to cement his status as the starter moving forward.
Given the choice of Kizer, Hogan or backup Cody Kessler, Jackson made clear the direction he'll take if the revolving door swings again.
"If I'm going to change quarterbacks I'm going back to DeShone," Jackson said.
Hogan, of course, offered a different view of things. A clear direction appears hopeless.
"I really trust in my talent and I trust in my ability to lead this team," Hogan said. "I know that the guys trust me and I know I can make plays out there. These games come down to a few plays here and there and unfortunately they didn't go our way today. It's definitely what I can learn from, but I know and I trust in myself that I can lead this team. I know we're going to get back to work and come back ready to fight against Tennessee next week at home."