Lesar: Football too fickle for DeShone Kizer to stay at Notre Dame

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Ninety-nine days ago, DeShone Kizer was the toast of the college football world.

Today, he’s taillights.

Remember Sept. 4 in Austin? In Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas, Kizer was the belle of the ball. The Irish quarterback’s five touchdown passes (15 of 24 passing, 215 yards, 0 interceptions) triggered the fascination of the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately guys who consider such things as Heisman Trophy contenders.

Even though it was an overtime loss to the Longhorns, Kizer was the leader in the clubhouse.

But, man, was there a long way to go.

The bloom fell off the rose a couple weeks later when the Irish endured back-to-back embarrassments against Michigan State and Duke. That’s about the same time coach Brian Kelly served notice to everyone but the long snapper that their job might be in jeopardy.

Kizer had gone from the star du jour to a guy looking over his shoulder to see if Malik Zaire was warming up.

Those first four weeks of the season were the embodiment of how the final two-thirds of the campaign played out. High highs. Low lows. And then there was the misery of the hurricane at North Carolina State.

Kizer had the tangibles: Size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds); strong arm; mobility; improved decision-making skills.

What he lacked was consistency.

Consistency is the lifeblood of an NFL quarterback. But, that can’t happen until the tangibles are in place.

In Kizer’s case, he had too many positives working in his favor to stay at Notre Dame. Declaring for the quarterback-starved NFL Draft was the best decision he could have made.

Everyone around the program had an inkling this day was going to come. When Kelly named Kizer one of seven captains at the team’s post mortem last Friday, it barely raised an eyebrow.

It was almost a foregone conclusion that his Notre Dame career had ended with a rib injury late in the loss to Southern Cal.

Kizer will be remembered more as the guy who came off the bench after Zaire was injured in 2015 to engineer an amazing comeback against Virginia, than the fellow who had a chance to win or tie the game with a final possession eight times this season and failed in seven.

That’s the retention pattern for an Irish fan.

For some reason, this year was one big disconnect. This Irish team never learned how to win the close game; how to finish. Whether it was Kizer, young receivers, a suspect offensive line, or a defense that couldn’t be completely trusted, there were problems that never got resolved.

Things should be better next season, but football doesn’t come with a guarantee.

The only black and white in Kizer’s world has come from the way he has performed the past two seasons at Notre Dame: Last year, coming within two near misses of the playoffs; then this year’s disaster.

When the NFL can forgive a quarterback for a 4-8 season and still consider him among the elite prospects, it’s time to go — and not ask any questions.

Remember, this was a guy — about three years ago when Zaire and Everett Golson were battling it out for the starting job — who was considering shelving his football career in favor of a fresh start in baseball.

He’s gotta be pleased he stuck with it. But, now it’s time to move on. He made the right call.

Football is too fickle to take a chance.

Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer (14) with teammates after winning the Miami at Notre Dame NCAA college football game Saturday Oct. 29, 2016, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA