Josh Gordon is headed back to Cleveland.
The Browns announced Monday that their long-lost wideout will report to the team on Tuesday to meet with officials from the organization following his reinstatement.
The NFL announced last Wednesday that Gordon had been reinstated on a conditional basis by Commissioner Roger Goodell, with the ability “to join the Browns to attend meetings, engage in conditioning work and individual workouts.”
Currently stashed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list, Gordon — if all goes swimmingly — will be allowed to practice with the Browns starting Monday, November 20. Come November 27, the 26-year-old pass-catcher would be eligible at the club’s discretion to return to active status.
“I’ve made the decision to start Kevin this week,” Hue Jackson said in a statement Wednesday. “We’ve liked what Kevin has been able to do within our offense when he’s been in there and he will start on Sunday Cleveland Browns jerseys because that’s what we feel is best for our team at this point in time. This does not change the way we feel about DeShone going forward. He has worked extremely hard and still very much has a bright future. Right now, it’s better for him and his development to back up Kevin.”
Hogan replaced Kizer in the second half in Week 5, after the rookie struggled again. The offense functioned better with Hogan under center, scoring 14 points and gaining 244 total yards. With Kizer under center, Cleveland earned just 175 total yards and had two red-zone turnovers.
The move to Hogan helps Jackson in the short term as the Browns are seeking their first win following another 0-5 start. Hogan, an athletic dual-threat, has a career 62.5 completion percentage in seven relief appearances with three touchdown passes and four interceptions. Sunday will mark the second-year pro’s first career start.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Hogan told reporters Wednesday. “I’m going to prepare my butt off this week for the guys around me and make sure they have confidence in me and trust me to lead their new browns jerseys so that I’m feeling good going into Sunday.”
The QB swap likely has more to do with letting Kizer hit the reset button than what Hogan brings to the table. The rookie has had more valleys than peaks, struggling to read defenses, slow in his decision-making, getting rattled under pressure and turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Entering the draft, many believed Kizer needed time to develop before hitting the field. The Browns will now take a step back and hope the mental reset allows Kizer to relax and learn from the sideline.
This wouldn’t be news if the rookie, who had started the season as Cleveland’s quarterback, had held onto the role. However, three consecutive benchings have thrown the position into flux. Kevin Hogan took over for Kizer in a Week 5 loss to the Jets, then started Cleveland’s loss in Houston. Kizer was handed the start in Week 7 against the Titans, but was quickly benched for former starter Cody Kessler, who finished the overtime loss.
“I think they’re hurting the young man, I think they’re hurting the organization,” Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner said on Up To The Minute Live Wednesday. “You have to give a guy a chance to show you what he is and show you want kind of leader he’s going to be. You’ve gotta let your team know, ‘this is our guy.’ Thick or thin, this is our guy. We’re going to fight through these things with his cleveland browns throwback jerseys.'”
On the season, Kizer ranks last in the league in interceptions (11), passer rating (47.8) and completion percentage (52.0); he leads only Joe Flacco in yards per attempt (5.39).
There might not be a more mishandled position in the entire league than “Browns starting quarterback,” but as the team nears its bye, and elimination from playoff contention, perhaps Cleveland will find clarity under center. First, the 21-year-old Kizer will have to survive the Vikings, a ball-hawking defense that hasn’t allowed more than 300 yards since Week 3 and a weekend in one of the world’s great pub cities.