This isn’t new for Jacoby Brissett.
During his rookie season in 2016, Brissett started two games for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo and a suspended Tom Brady with the New England Patriots. Then, in 2017, it was 15 games for an injured Andrew Luck with the Indianapolis Colts. Then, in 2019, it was the entire season, again for the Colts after Luck retired. Last year, he started five games for an injured Tua Tagovailoa with the Miami Dolphins.
Now, the 29-year-old will once again enter the spotlight as a starter despite being signed as a backup. Brissett is QB1 in Cleveland while Deshaun Watson sits for an 11-game suspension stemming from 24 civil suits alleging sexual assault and misconduct.
“It’s been my situation throughout my career,” Brissett said earlier in August. “It’s nothing that I’m unfamiliar with — always being ready to go when my number has been called and that’s the case now.”
The Browns remain committed to Brissett despite rumors they could still acquire Garoppolo, whom the San Francisco 49ers are looking to trade after drafting Trey Lance No. 3 overall in 2021 and turning the team over to him this offseason. General manager Andrew Berry recently said the Browns feel “good” about Brissett as their starter and that they liked what they’ve seen him do in practice already.
“We have a lot of confidence in Jacoby,” Berry said last week. “We’ve seen him play in Indianapolis and Miami. We’ve seen him here on the practice field. We think he had a really good camp. So we have a lot of confidence in him.”
Browns players are fully behind him, too. Wide receiver Amari Cooper and running back Nick Chubb both called Brissett “a funny guy” in the locker room who can be serious on the field. They also said they like his style of play and the way he communicates with the team.
“Jacoby’s a seasoned vet,” Chubb said Friday. “He’s been in the league a long time. He’s made amazing plays. He’s played well wherever he’s been. There’s no doubt in our minds he wouldn’t be able to get the job done for us.”
But why would Cleveland choose a player with a 14-23 overall record as a starter who averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt instead of a more established or more successful quarterback?
Physically, the appeal of Brissett is obvious: He has prototypical size at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds with a great arm from the pocket. He also plays relatively efficient and mistake-free football with a 60.2 career completion percentage and the second-lowest interception rate among quarterbacks with at least 1,200 passing attempts since 2016.
But more than his production and measurables, the Browns seem to like how Brissett has carried himself despite his unconventional career as a spot starter.
“Having a guy like Jacoby, who has been through it and started a lot of football games, he’s really a smart young man,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said at the NFL’s annual owners meetings in March. “Just getting to know him when we brought him in throughout the process, he’s going to be a good one.”
Jacoby Brissett had a big-name fan early on
Brissett’s reputation can be traced back to his high school playing days in West Palm Beach, Florida, where as a 15-year-old he had already earned the adulation of Bill Parcells. The legendary NFL coach spends his winters in nearby Jupiter, and the pro at his golf club also happened to be the father-in-law of Brissett’s high school coach.
Parcells started following Brissett’s career, which began at Dwyer High School and then took him to the University of Florida — where Brissett spent two seasons mainly as a spot starter — before he transferred to North Carolina State. Parcells started advising Brissett before the 2016 NFL draft and affectionately referred to him as “One Snap,” a reminder that he’s only one snap away from seeing the field.
Their relationship is part of the reason Brissett was drafted by Parcells’ mentee, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots.
“I have such a very high regard for him personally,” Parcells told ESPN in 2017. “Extremely high regard.”
Although he sat third on the Patriots’ depth chart in 2016, Brissett found himself as the starter in Week 3 during Brady’s Deflategate suspension after Garappolo suffered a shoulder injury the week before. Brissett went 1-1 with a 60.87 completion percentage on 46 attempts with 308 passing yards and no touchdowns, but also no interceptions.
That tiny sample size was enough to get the attention of the Colts, who gave Brissett perhaps his biggest break.
Brissett replaced Andrew Luck — twice
The Colts scrambled to find a competent starter in 2017 when they discovered Luck’s elbow injury was worse than originally thought. Indianapolis traded former first-round wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to New England for Brissett, who would eventually take over for the Colts’ initial backup, Scott Tolzien, in Week 1 and then start the rest of the season.
Brissett completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions as the Colts went 4-12. It didn’t help that he was also the most sacked quarterback in the league that season.
Still, former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano praised Brissett for that season as recently as this month.
“He gave us a chance in every game,” Pagano told The 33rd Team. “We just didn’t have the roster around him to do so.”
Brissett went back to the bench in 2018 when Luck returned, but found himself the starter once more a year later when Luck suddenly retired from the NFL at the age of 29.
The Colts didn’t give Brissett a tepid vote of confidence. They instead handed him a two-year, $30 million contract with $20 million guaranteed to keep him around for the year.
Brissett played respectably again, with a 60.9 completion rate, 2,942 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2019. But the Colts stumbled to a 7-9 record after a 1-5 end to the season. Indianapolis chose to bring in veteran Philip Rivers the following season and relegated Brissett to the bench.
“He just holds the bar really high for himself and for his teammates,” Colts head coach Frank Reich told Andscape in 2019. “That’s the kind of leader you need, especially from that position.”
During Deshaun Watson suspension, Browns leaning on continuity
Brissett signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in 2021 to reunite with former Patriots assistant and then-Miami head coach Brian Flores, and actually saw a decent amount of action behind Tagovailoa. He started five games in total when Tagovailoa suffered rib and finger injuries, but wasn’t great during that stretch. The Dolphins went 2-3 with Brissett under center and he had 1,283 passing yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.
After the season, he didn’t have to wait long for his next team. A week after the Browns traded for and signed Watson to a record-setting deal on March 18, Cleveland signed Brissett off the street knowing he’d likely be their starter if and when Watson was suspended. That idea was confirmed when the Browns traded Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers in July.
That left Brissett as the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback, even despite the Garoppolo rumors. With less than a month before kickoff, it sounds like Stefanski and the Browns understand what they have in Brissett and appear content with him as QB1.
“I think back to when we were acquiring Jacoby, the phone calls that I made to people he’s played for, people that he’s played with, it was very, very consistent in that you’re getting a pro’s pro,” Stefanski said Thursday.
The Browns have to hope that’s enough to keep them competitive in the AFC North. Brissett, meanwhile, isn’t concerned with expectations.
“I couldn’t care less,” he said Friday. “I’m here to do my job and do the best I can. Everything else will take care of itself.”