No finger pointing: DeShone Kizer's accountability hits the right notes at NFL Combine

No finger pointing: DeShone Kizer's accountability hits the right notes at NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer "blew the doors off" in an interview with his team, which doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who worked with or followed Kizer during his three-year stint in South Bend. 

In a more public interview setting on Friday, Kizer said he's taken accountability for Notre Dame's brutal season when it's been brought up in private. That level of personal ownership, and the lack of finger pointing from a guy who certainly would've been within his rights to do so, may resonate as teams examine whether or not to select Kizer in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

"A guy my size, my arm talent, my understanding of football, why do you go 4-8?" Kizer said of the prodding he's received in interviews with teams. "I've answered that question as truthfully as I possibly can, and that's I didn't make plays."

Notre Dame's worst season since 2007 wasn't all on Kizer, of course. An awful defense washed out huge stat lines Kizer had in losses to Texas (15/24, 215 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 rushing TD) and Duke (22/37, 381 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD), for example. Brian Kelly's August decision to play both Kizer and Malik Zaire was an ill-fated one, leaving Kizer to look over his shoulder more than he would've liked while preparing for the season. 

"I don't think (the two quarterback approach) held me back, but I do think I spent a little too much time thinking about that rather than thinking about developing the guys around me and developing the trust," Kizer said. "Once again, that 2015 team and the 2016 team were completely different. We had almost completely different roster on offense. I think there should have been a little more time spent with me trying to develop that trust and develop the guys around me to make the plays in those fourth-quarter drives when needed. At times I was kind of looking over my shoulder a little bit too much. That's probably my biggest regret this past season."

Notre Dame's wide receivers were exceedingly young last year, and lone regular upperclassman Torii Hunter Jr. only appeared in eight games due to a pair of injuries. The losses of wide receiver Will Fuller, running back C.J. Prosise and offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin — all of whom were among the first 90 picks in last year's NFL Draft — created a talent vacuum that Kizer and the Irish weren't able to fill. 

Kizer certainly could've pointed to all those mitigating factors, as well as his still-solid stat line (58.7 percent completion rate, 2,925 yards, 26 TDs, 9 INTs, 8 rushing TDs) and try to absolve himself of responsibility for Notre Dame's dismal season. But doing so probably would've been detrimental to his chances of being a high draft pick — blaming others is never good for locker room morale, after all. 

"The ball's in my hand every play," Kizer said. "It's my job at Notre Dame to put us in position to win games, to trust
in the guys around me and develop the guys around me to make those plays with me."

But the Bears have, in Indianapolis, made mention of wanting a quarterback to have the ability to make everyone around him better, which is something Kizer didn't do in 2016. General manager Ryan Pace pointed to the success Drew Brees in college — at a perennial underdog of a program — as something the team would like a young quarterback to have in his history. 

"You want to see a guy who has elevated his program," Pace, who was part of the New Orleans Saints front office when Brees led the franchise to a Super Bowl win, said. "Again, you just reference places you've been. I know I've talked about this (player) a lot because he had a big impact on me. But I think about Brees when he was at Purdue. And he elevated that program. He took them to the Rose Bowl. I think that means something. I think that's something that we have to pay attention to."

Based on that boat-raising trait, Clemson's Deshaun Watson would seem to be the guy if the Bears decide to target a quarterback in the draft. While Notre Dame (under Kizer) and North Carolina (under Mitchell Trubisky) both took steps back in 2016, Clemson made the only stride possible for that program: Beating Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game a year after losing to the Crimson Tide on the same stage. 

Watson elevated Clemson from a perennial good-not-elite team to a title contender in the two years he regularly started for the Tigers. That may resonate more with the Bears than Kizer being a good interview. 

Kizer has other tantalizing traits, of course — his Combine measurements of 6-foot-4, 233 pounds and 9 7/8" hand are awfully close to those of Andrew Luck (6-foot-4, 234 pounds, 10" hand). And his 2015 film, during which Notre Dame went 10-3 and was a pair of two-point losses away from going 12-0), can't be thrown out because the Irish plummeted to eight losses a year later. 

But what Kizer showed on Friday was accountability, confidence and poise. Are those intangible traits, and his answers to teams in Indianapolis, good enough to warrant interest from teams — like the Bears — picking high in the draft?

"I guess we'll see if they'll come see me at Pro Day," Kizer said. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How long will Mike Glennon last as the starting QB?

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AP

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How long will Mike Glennon last as the starting QB?

In the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Dan Cahill and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. 

The Cubs lineup changes continue. So which young Cub need to play every day? The guys discuss. Plus, Jim Deshaies joins the show live to discuss the state of the Cubs’ rotation.

Mike Glennon is told that this season is his. How long will that last? 

Later, Scott Paddock discusses NASCAR’s big schedule changes for 2018 and how it affects racing at Chicagoland Speedway.

Listen to this edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast here:

Bears QB Mike Glennon makes his role emphatically clear: ‘This year is my year’

Bears QB Mike Glennon makes his role emphatically clear: ‘This year is my year’

Mike Glennon stuck to an emphatic mantra during his first meeting with the media since the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky last month: “This year is my year.”

It wasn’t a surprising line — what else was he supposed to say? — but it was telling in the sense that Glennon didn’t appear to be rattled by the presence of Trubisky, the franchise’s presumptive quarterback of the future. Unofficially, Glennon said some version of that line a dozen times in just over 10 minutes. 

“They brought me here to be the quarterback this year and nothing has changed,” Glennon said. “So in my mind, I have to go out and play well, and I know that, and that’s basically the bottom line.”

Will Glennon work with Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick and presumptive quarterback of the future? Yes. But is that his main focus? No. The job of developing Trubisky falls on offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, not the guy who the Bears committed tens of millions of dollars to to play quarterback. 

Glennon said general manager Ryan Pace called him about 10 minutes after Roger Goodell announced Trubisky’s name in Philadelphia April 27 to reassure him that he would still be the Bears’ starting quarterback in 2017. Like most everyone — including Trubisky — Glennon was surprised the Bears made the pick, but the 27-year-old said he quickly re-trained his attention back on preparing for the upcoming season. 

“I’m not worried about the future,” Glennon said. “I’m not worried about the past. I’m worried about the present and right now this is my team and that’s where my focus is.”

Glennon’s three-year, $45 million deal is structured so the Bears could cut him after the 2017 season and absorb only a $2.5 million cap hit, $500,000 more than the team took on when Jay Cutler was released in March. His contract was set up that way before the Bears snuck into Chapel Hill, N.C. for a surreptitious dinner and workout with Trubisky — he’s a bridge quarterback with an opportunity to show he’s greater than that label. 

“Even if I were to (look in hindsight) I would still have came here,” Glennon said. “Like I said, this is my year. There are no guarantees in the NFL. The majority of guys in the NFL are playing year-to-year. I’m here to prove myself that I can me the quarterback this year and going forward. But right now my focus is on winning games this year.”

“… I can only say it so many times, this year has been fully communicated that it's my year,” Glennon said. “I’m not going to worry about the future. As long as I play well, it will all work out.’