The Browns won’t waste any time finding out whether DeShone Kizer can become their franchise quarterback.

Coach Hue Jackson named Kizer the starter for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a conference call Sunday afternoon and vowed to stick with the second-round draft pick from Notre Dame for the foreseeable future despite the inevitable growing pains he’ll experience as a rookie.

“This is not just for the moment,” Jackson said. “We are going to get with DeShone, ride with him through it all and work with him through all of this. [Struggles as a rookie] are going to happen, and I think we get that. He gets that. We are not going to blink about it. We are just going to correct it and keep moving forward.”

Jackson admitted the way the quarterback competition played out surprised him. Cody Kessler began spring practices in the driver’s seat but faltered in training camp. Then Brock Osweiler started the first two preseason games but failed to seize the job. Kizer had mentally prepared himself to be patient in case the Browns made him learn from the sidelines to begin his career but, instead, he’ll be thrown into the fire right away.

The decision fast-tracks the organization’s evaluation of Kizer as a potential long-term answer at the sport’s most important position. If Kizer doesn’t show enough promise this year, the Browns will likely devote a high draft pick to a quarterback in 2018, when they’ll have two first-round selections and three second-round choices.

“There was a purpose in drafting him,” Jackson said. “We thought that he had exactly what we were looking for. ... I give [head of football operations] Sashi [Brown] and the executive team a lot of credit. I think we all dove into this the right way to go find a guy who hopefully can solve our quarterback issue.

“It is not over with yet. This guy has been named the starter, but he still has to earn the right to be the starting quarterback for this team week in and week out, and I think he gets that. But he has the talent, he has the makeup and he has the things we are looking for. Now, we just have to push him onto that next level.”

Jackson said last week he wanted to put the quarterback derby to bed this past Wednesday, but he stopped short and gave himself an out in case Kizer flopped Saturday night in the third preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Kizer didn’t post great statistics as the starter of the dress rehearsal — 6-of-18 passing for 93 yards with an interception and a rating of 28.2 — but those numbers were misleading because of dropped passes and poor field position.

“His pocket presence continues to stand out,” Jackson said. “... Around him, we all have to do our jobs better to better support him. When there is a chance to catch the ball, we have to catch it, and when there is a chance to hold onto it in the scoring zone, we have to do that. But I thought he led the team and gave us opportunities to score points, which we didn’t finish as a unit.”

Wide receiver Kenny Britt dropped a third-down pass at the Bucs 5-yard line, forcing the Browns to settle for a field goal, and running back Duke Johnson later lost a fumble at Tampa Bay’s 10. Three of Kizer’s five series started inside the Browns 10 — at their 1, 3 and 9. An indication of Kizer’s poise, he completed 5-of-8 passes on third down.

All things considered, he had a solid outing in Jackson’s mind and did enough while playing the first half of the Browns’ 13-9 win in Tampa, Fla., to clinch the job heading into Week 1.

“DeShone is our starting quarterback,” Jackson said. “He has earned the right to play through his preparation. He has established a work ethic that I think has earned the respect of his teammates.

“It has been good to watch his development throughout the offseason. Obviously, he is a young quarterback, and he still has a lot to learn. He is going to learn a lot and gain a lot of experience, and the only way you get that is by playing.”

New name on list

Kizer will be the Browns’ 27th starting quarterback, their 15th in an opener, since 1999.

Jackson said he hasn’t decided whether Osweiler, Kessler or Kevin Hogan will serve as the No. 2 quarterback.

Regardless, Kizer will be only the second rookie quarterback to start in Week 1 for the franchise during the expansion era.

Brandon Weeden was the first, but there’s a significant difference. A former professional baseball player, Weeden was 28 when he entered the 2012 season as the starter. Kizer turned 21 on Jan. 3.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four quarterbacks 21 or younger have started an NFL opener since the 1988 season: Drew Bledsoe (1993), Matthew Stafford (2009), Jameis Winston (2015) and Marcus Mariota (2015).

At Notre Dame, Kizer went 8-3 as a starter in 2015, then 4-8 last season. His elite size — 6-4¼ and 232 pounds — arm strength and mobility allow him to make phenomenal plays at times, but he still struggles with accuracy issues that plagued him in college.

Nevertheless, Jackson believes Kizer’s talent outweighs the negatives.

“He can win with his arm — he has tremendous arm talent — and then he can win with his legs because he is athletic enough and he is a big guy,” Jackson said. “He has the characteristics that we covet. We have to continue to get him to use those at the best of his ability.”

Right guy for job

Kizer’s improved understanding of NFL defenses since he joined the Browns April 28 has impressed Jackson as well.

“He has the right feel, he has the right temperament and when he comes over [to the sideline], the conversations we have are the kind of conversations you want to have with your quarterback,” Jackson said. “We are able to go back through the last series and look at the pictures and talk through coverages.

“It is not like he doesn’t understand or that he is lost. He gets it. Sometimes he is able to tell me before I can even get it out. ‘I should have seen this,’ or ‘I thought this was this way.’ ”

Jackson hasn’t decided whether Kizer will play in the preseason finale Thursday night on the road against the Chicago Bears. In 14 series this preseason, he has completed 25-of-49 passes (51 percent) for 351 yards and a touchdown with an interception for a rating of 72.7 to go along with eight carries for 47 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown, and five sacks taken.

“If he is going to be out there for a series or two [in the last exhibition game], maybe it is not worth the opportunity of putting him out there,” Jackson said. “I just haven’t made that decision yet about our football team and how much anybody is playing.”

But Jackson has made the most important QB decision of the summer, and Kizer is his man.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns.