DeShone Kizer conceded it would be nice to have a veteran quarterback as a teammate.
"It would be valuable to have a guy who has been through this and understands it all," Kizer said this week as he prepared for the Browns (0-4) to host the New York Jets (2-2) on Sunday.
Although the Browns rookie quarterback doesn't have that luxury, he recently received some public advice from 15-year NFL veteran Josh McCown.
"It is hard if you are in a rebuilding mode and you have to play as a young player," McCown, the starting quarterback of the Jets whom the Browns cut in February after he spent two seasons with them, said during a conference call. "As a quarterback, sometimes you can feel attached to anything that doesn't go right, and you have to remember that you are your own entity as far as just trying to grow and get better."
It's not easy to strike the right balance mentally.
Kizer, 21, certainly bears responsibility for the team's record, but he also must be aware he's part of a massive rebuilding project. He needs more support to be successful early in his career, especially from what's been a horrendous receiving corps and an underachieving running game, and he cannot allow his confidence to shatter in the meantime.
"In terms of my growth and my development, I know that there is specific things that I look for each week, and I want to attack those," Kizer said. "Sometimes the stats might lean you away from the things that we are actually growing in."
Statistics can be deceiving. For example, Kenny Britt dropped a pass from Kizer in the red zone during Sunday's 31-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the ball deflected off the struggling veteran wide receiver and was intercepted. That said, Kizer's numbers are awful. He has an NFL-high eight interceptions. He's ranked last in completion percentage (51.4), passer rating (50.9) and third-down rating (27.4). He's 31st in yards per attempt (5.38).
"When you are 0-4 and statistically one of the worst quarterbacks out there right now, you have to figure out where you are headed," Kizer said. "What is the path right now? What is the message? For me, it is about doing whatever I can to grow in whatever coach decides needs to be the right room for growth for that week.
"In the last couple weeks, we were talking about trying not to hold onto the ball and make sure that we are throwing the ball away and not taking sacks. We made progress in that. This week, it is about putting the ball in playmakers hands and trying to go score points so we can go win a game.
"Obviously, this is going to be a process. Rome wasn't built in a day, and I am looking forward to attacking this consistently and taking on those small projects until it becomes something that we really want it to be."
Kizer said he talks to some former NFL quarterbacks about how to manage the rookie growing pains he's experiencing, but he declined to disclose names. He explained he has accepted Hue Jackson as his mentor, and the coach constantly reminds the second-round draft pick from Notre Dame how to maintain the right mindset.
"I try not to make it about numbers," Jackson said. "I make it about playing within what we are trying to accomplish and what we are doing. We all know that a quarterback is not just measured by numbers. It is by winning. We haven't done that part of it yet.
"But I think as it goes, the game is starting to slow down for him. He is starting to really see everything very clearly. When you can do that, that is when the game really starts to really take off for you."
Kizer's teammates realize he's enduring a difficult transition to the NFL, but they think he's carrying himself well despite it.
"It's hard when you're coming from college," left guard Joel Bitonio said. "You're used to winning games. You're used to putting up big numbers. Sometimes in the NFL, numbers and wins aren't what show your growth. You can have a great game at quarterback and there can be drops and different things that affect his stats.
"But he has such a good mindset. He came in with that. He controls the huddle well. He still has this confidence about him. I can tell he's deflated when we lose and he doesn't play a great game, but he has a confidence about him that I think really moves the needle in the direction you want to see."
Kizer and rookie safety Jabrill Peppers have had to heart-to-heart chats about what they're going through.
"We both know we haven't been playing the way we need to be playing to help this team win ballgames," Peppers said. "But you can't ever waver."
There's no doubt Kizer is working tirelessly to break through. The only relaxation he allows himself is watching an occasional show on Netflix. He plans to monitor the Indians' playoff run but doesn't expect to have enough time to watch an entire game.
"My understanding of the game comes from whatever Twitter tells me," he said.
It's all part of accepting the responsibility of trying to lift a downtrodden franchise.
"That is my job," Kizer said. "They brought me here to play quarterback here, and they deemed me the starting quarterback Week 1. It is on me to make sure that I am doing whatever I can to help my teammates around me develop as well as developing myself.
"In the quiet hours, the personal growth has to be done on my own outside of this. In here, it is about doing whatever we can to win games, and that is about the stuff that happens out on the field and the development that I need to continue to have in order to be a good enough quarterback to win games in this league."