HOUSTON — In one breath Sunday, Hue Jackson was hinting strongly that DeShone Kizer would return as the Cleveland Browns’ starter at quarterback against the Tennessee Titans.
In the next, he seemed perplexed by a report on CBS during the game broadcast that he had texted Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson the day of the draft and said, “be ready.”
The implication of the report was that Jackson was alerting Watson to prepare himself to be drafted by Cleveland.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Jackson said after the Browns fell to 0-6 with a 33-17 loss to Watson and the Texans. “That’s so long ago. I met with that crew, and nobody asked me that. I met with the same crew, and that question never came up to me. I did text Deshaun before [the draft]. I was in conversation with him. But I don’t recall draft day at all.
“I don’t think I would have [done] that.”
The significance, of course, is that the Browns traded the 12th pick to Houston so the Texans could draft Watson. That means that for the second year in a row, the Browns traded out of a pick that a team used to take the guy it believes is its franchise quarterback. In 2016, Carson Wentz went to the Eagles with a pick the Browns traded.
“I know I did not send that text on draft day,” Jackson said.
Watson said he did, though he made it sound like a friendly thing about the draft.
“Hue texted me that morning and just said, ‘Be ready. Anything could happen,’” Watson said. “And they took the picks they wanted to take.”
Watson said he developed a friendship with Jackson in the months leading up to the draft.
“Me and Hue during the draft process kind of communicated,” Watson said. “They were a team that was big on me. Brought me in, worked me out, met with me, phone calls throughout the weeks. Just kind of building a relationship, building a friendship.
“I didn’t know where I was going to go, but at the end of the day, God put me here with Houston.”
Watson said he considered the Browns one of many possibilities on draft day.
“I knew they had two first round picks, and anything can happen,” he said. “I just kept an open mind and didn’t want to get my hopes up too big and just kind of enjoyed it, had fun with it. It was a lifetime dream, and it ended up being a great night.”
The Browns took Myles Garrett with the first overall pick and could have taken Watson with the 12th (which they acquired for Wentz). NFL.com reported the week after the draft that Watson was the quarterback Jackson liked, but he wanted safety Malik Hooker at the spot.
The Browns chose to trade down and acquired Houston’s first-round picks in 2017 and 2018. That is one of five picks the Browns have in the first two rounds of the ’18 draft.
“I don’t remember making any texts to him on draft day other than later on telling him congratulations, him being drafted to where he went, to Houston,” Jackson said. “I don’t remember telling him to be ready for us to draft him or anything like that.”
The Browns wound up taking Kizer in the second round. Kizer started the team’s first five games but was benched against Houston in lieu of Kevin Hogan.
Hogan threw three interceptions, fumbled once (the Browns recovered) and was sacked in the end zone for a safety in what turned out to be a long day.
Jackson said he would decide who starts against Tennessee later this week, but he wanted Kizer “to see the game from a different lens.”
“As I told you guys, this was going to be week to week,” Jackson said. “You guys asked me last week. I never said that Kevin was going to be the starter for the rest of the season.”