Editor’s note: The NFL Draft is over. No one is completely sure when training camp and the regular season will begin for the NFL. The league has now entered a quiet period that is more quiet than usual.
To help fill in that space, we are running a series to determine the best player to wear each jersey number in Cleveland Browns history. Today we try to determine the best player to wear uniform No. 7.
One of the challenges of creating a definitive ranking of the best player to wear each uniform number in Cleveland Browns history is that you never know what you are going to find.
Some uniform numbers are easy, while others are not so clear cut. Then there are those numbers that leave you channeling the ghost of Vince Lombardi and scream out, “what the hell’s going on out here?”
Such is the case with uniform No. 7, which has been worn by a dozen players in franchise history, but rarely with much distinction.
So let’s work our way through this in reverse order, starting with eliminating those players who are not part of the discussion.
That list includes:
- Quarterback Joe Callahan, who spent a month with the Browns in 2016;
- Punter Paul Ernster, who played seven games in 2007 and averaged 36.2 yards per kick on seven punts;
- Quarterback Terry Luck, who appeared in four games in 1977, completing 25-of-50 passes for 316 yards, a touchdown and seven interceptions;
- Placekicker Ross Martin, who signed with the Browns in June of 2018 but never appeared in a game;
- Quarterback Alex Tanney, who was signed by the Browns in November of 2013 and released in May of 2014 without ever appearing in a game;
- Quarterback Bruce Gradowski, who played two games for the Browns in 2008, including a season-ending start against the Pittsburgh Steelers where he finished five-of-16 for 18 yards with two interceptions and three sacks in a 31-0 defeat;
- Quarterback Austin Davis, who played in three games for the Browns in 2015, finishing 56-of-94 for 547 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions;
Now, let’s move on to the “yeah, but” portion of the list, which includes four players that could be part of the discussion, but they all come with a qualifier that keeps them from making the cut.
That list includes:
- Punter Brad Maynard, who played for the Browns in 2011, the final season of his 15-year career. Maynard is easily the most accomplished player on this list, but he only played one season with the Browns.
- Punter Tom Tupa, who was with the Browns in 1994 and 1995. He did average 41.7 yards per punt on 145 punts, but we are not ready to select a punter … just yet.
- Punter Jamie Gillan, who did a solid job in 2019 with a 46.2 yard average on 63 punts, but needs to do it for more than one season;
That leaves us with just two remaining candidates for the title as the best to wear uniform No. 7.
The first up is punter Jeff Gossett, who played for the Browns for three-and-a-half seasons in the mid-1980s.
Gossett was with the Browns in 1983, left for a year when he signed with the Chicago Blitz of the United States Football League, and then returned to the Browns for the 1985 season after the USFL folded. Gossett averaged 40.7 yards per punt with the Browns and gets bonus points for being a member of the playoff teams in 1985 and 1986.
The other option is quarterback DeShone Kizer, who started all but one game during his lone year in Cleveland - the winless 2017 season.
Kizer was a second-round selection that year out of Notre Dame. He was not ready to be a starting NFL quarterback as a rookie - Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly told Kizer as much — but legendary quarterback whisperer Hue Jackson had a different idea in his second season as Browns head coach.
Jackson decided that the best way to approach the season was to craft a quarterback room of Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler, and despite a shaky preseason, determined that having Kizer as the starter was the way to go.
Kizer was not good, as he completed just 53.6 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and a league-leading 22 interceptions as the Browns went 0-16 on the season.
That was Kizer’s lone year as the starting quarterback in Cleveland as he was traded to the Green Bay Packers during the offseason. After one season with the Packers, Kizer spent the 2019 season with the Oakland Raiders - where he did not throw a pass — and was released earlier this month and his CFL rights were claimed by the Toronto Argonauts, which may be Kizer’s last chance to make something of a pro career for himself.
OK, enough stalling, time to make a choice!
While this is a case where there are truly no winners, we are committed to making a selection, so as difficult as it is, DeShone Kizer is the choice as the best Browns player to wear uniform No. 7 in team history.
Who was the best player to wear No. 7 in Browns history?
This poll is closed