Former Iowa football player Christian Kirksey has spent the majority of his NFL career losing in Cleveland, but the tides are turning in 2019.
Christian Kirksey hasn’t exactly had the best of luck in his football career. He joined the Iowa football program the season after their Orange Bowl-winning season and graduated and head to the NFL two seasons before their undefeated 2015 season. In the middle of that, the Iowa football team suffered through their worst season under Kirk Ferentz since his first two years as the head coach when they went 4-8 in 2012.
Drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Kirksey joined a team that has made the playoffs just once since 1999, and in the past five seasons, he has suffered through some tough times. In five seasons with the team, Kirksey and the Browns have won just 18 times including one 0-16 season.
Kirksey’s patience, however, is paying off as the Cleveland Browns appear to be ready for playoff and even Super Bowl contention in 2019. The Browns roster has changed drastically over the last five seasons, but the one consistent part has been Kirksey’s presence at the weakside linebacker position. Tied for the longest-tenured player of the Browns, Kirksey has become a leader in Cleveland.
For any of you who watch Hard Knocks, you know exactly what I am talking about. Constantly in that show, it was the former Iowa football player stepping up and doing things the right way, communicating and show rookies how to go about their business, and inspiring the defense to do better. It’s a big reason why he is a team captain.
The one thing Kirksey needs to do better when leading the Browns though is to improve his on-field performance. In the last two seasons, he has received bad grades from Pro Football Focus. In 2017, he was rated the 52nd best outside linebacker and last season he was rated the 85th best linebacker. For a team with title hopes, they need Kirksey to lead in all facets of the game to be successful.
If not, the former Iowa football player could be on his way out in Cleveland. The Browns used two draft picks on linebackers including a third-round pick (which was a big reach to be fair) on Sione Takitaki, who plays the same spot as Kirksey. More concerning for Christian is after the 2019 season, the 4-year extension he signed back in 2017 is much easier to get rid of. Cutting him prior to the 2020 season will only cost the Browns $2.4 million, and it will save them $7.5 million.
For a guy who hasn’t experienced much team success the past five years, it would be fun to see Christian Kirksey make the playoffs with the team that drafted him, and it would be even better if it’s in large part because of Kirksey’s leadership and on-field performance.