Brissett Prematurely Replaced by Stop Gap Signing in Rivers
It wasn't long ago that Jacoby Brissett was seen much more favorably in Indianapolis. The Colts saw Brissett as an extremely likeable presence in the locker room that could win games if he was surrounded by the right kind of dynamic talent. Colts fans know better than most that having an elite level talent quarterback doesn't always translate to winning world championships. With more than two decades of prime quarterback talent in Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, Indianapolis managed to make just two Super Bowls, winning one.
Depending on the roster building strategy a team wants to employ, it can dramatically impact who is seen as pillars in the organization. The 2001 Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens were built around an all-time defense, with a one read quarterback in Trent Dilfer. Joe Flacco's playoff run in 2012 led to a lucrative $120 million contract and another Super Bowl title for Baltimore. But much like Dilfer, Flacco's production leveled off and he has yet to earn a playoff berth since being named MVP of Super Bowl XLVII. But Baltimore to their credit, has more Super Bowl victories than Indianapolis with far less capable quarterbacks leading the way each time. Brissett is not an elite talent, but is more than serviceable.
Brissett was Initially brought in by the Indianapolis Colts as a saving grace from the ineptitude of Scott Tolzien during the 2017 season. Andrew Luck was laboring a mangled throwing shoulder and had been placed on IR, forcing him to miss the entire season. Back to back pick 6 interceptions in the regular season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, provided all the tape anyone would need to see from Tolzien as a realistic option. Brissett had previously backed up an all-time great in Tom Brady and developed under the coaching tutelage of Bill Belichick. But as a pseudo rookie starting quarterback, responsibility was handed to Brissett, with little practice time to salvage a season for the Indianapolis Colts. Brissett took a beating week to week with the Colts in 2017, falling victim to a league leading 52 sacks. Brissett was surrounded though by a battered and barren roster constructed mostly by outed GM Ryan Grigson. In spite of the limited talent around him, Brissett positioned himself in the eyes of Colts fans as a quality option if Luck's injury prone ways continued.
Following Andrew Luck's shocking retirement 10 days before the 2019 regular season, Brissett was called upon once again as a saving grace for the Colts. Many fans were justified to feel angry and disappointed following the unexpected announcement. The Colts seemed like a team poised to assert themselves as a contender in the AFC over the next decade with a healthy Andrew Luck available. Fans had also grown tired of Andrew Luck's persistent ailments, likely wanting their hard earned season ticket investment back from the Colts, knowing the face of their franchise wouldn't be playing.
But Luck likely made the choice to retire when he did knowing a player like Jacoby Brissett would jump at the chance to immediately take over. In spite of losing a generational talent in Andrew Luck, Colts fans still had plenty of optimism to lean on. A vibrant defense loaded with speed and play making ability was going to be the identity of this rebuild. A major difference from the Manning and Luck led rosters in years past.
Colts fans had gotten used to watching supreme level quarterback talent. Quarterbacks so elite, that they had the ability on their own, to lift surrounding players to another level. Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck specialized in doing more with less and after more than 20 years of this, it's hard for fans to shift their perspective. Change is difficult for anyone. For Indianapolis Colts fans, Jacoby Brissett as the full-time starter was a major change.
Through the first seven games last season, Brissett did what he was asked to do based on the roster building strategy that was being taken by new GM Chris Ballard. The Colts would lean on their young defense to cause turnovers and surrender a lot of yards, but hopefully limit points. Unlike in 2017, Brissett had adequate protection along an entirely revamped offensively line. T.Y. Hilton returned for the 2019 season healthy and in the prime of his career. Hilton was also looking to make up for a disappointing 2017 campaign as Brissett's preferred target. TE Eric Ebron was coming off of a career best season pulling in 13 TD receptions. The Colts also added receiving options in Devin Funchess through free agency and Parris Campbell through the draft. On paper, the Colts had abundant depth with plenty of targets to surround a less talented QB in Brissett.
Whether it's a coincidence or just bad luck, many of these acquired options would either miss substantial time during the 2019 season or end up on injured reserve. Funchess, Campbell, and Ebron would all end up on IR, leaving scraps from a once fully stocked assortment of weapons. This depletion doesn't include others weapons like T.Y. Hilton who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the 2019 season, limiting both his availability and effectiveness.
Even C Ryan Kelly missed three games down the stretch with a concussion, leaving the Colts without a valuable anchor along their offensive line. As impactful as a QB can be on a team, without seasoned weapons to throw to or key veterans to provide valuable time in the pocket, it's going to be a challenge to win. Combine this with a defense that allowed more than 23 points per game, it's difficult for any quarterback to win. Even Brissett himself was hurt in Week 9 against Pittsburgh, suffering an ankle injury.
In the face of multiple coinciding issues, Brissett led the Colts to a 5-2 record through the first seven games last season. Brissett would even earn AFC Player of the Week against Houston in Week 7, throwing for 326 yards and four touchdowns. Let's not forget either Brissett's desperation heave to T.Y. Hilton against Denver in Week 8 to allow for a game-winning field goal attempt by Adam Vinatieri. Viantieri is coming off his worst season as a pro, making only 17 of 25 field goal attempts. Vinatieri also whiffed on six PAT's last season, putting Brissett in a compromised position multiple times during the late stages of games. Injured or not, Vinatieri is to blame for many of the Colts close calls or missed chances last season.
Through the first seven games last season, Brissett passed for an average of more than 170 yards per game and totaled four passing touchdowns to just three interceptions. He wasn't elite, but did the job he had to in order for the Colts to win. Brissett overcame depleted weapons, personal injuries, a porous defense, and father-time finally getting to an all-time kicker. In spite of all this adversity, Brissett led a winning product onto the field.
Jacoby Brissett is not an elite talent, but deserves another season as the Colts starting quarterback with a fully recuperated roster. If Jacoby were to fail again, that would be the time to consider bringing in a stop gap signing like Phillip Rivers. Rivers is likely a Hall of Famer with impressive on field production, but isn't without his flaws. Rivers has never proven himself to be a player that wins during the playoffs with a 5-6 postseason record. He has never made it to a Super Bowl and is going to be 39 years old by the end of this season. Rivers is incrementally better than Brissett, but scouts would expect that just by Rivers having more NFL experience. For Rivers to be handed $25 million by the Colts for just one season at the helm, that's a steep, short-sighted signing. Substantial money like that could easily be put elsewhere to sure up another part of the roster. But the Colts are entrusting in an experienced veteran like Rivers for now, until the right prospect emerges in this year's draft or in the near future.
But Brissett deserved better from the Colts having been someone they leaned on to save them twice before. Brissett will likely be moved too in an effort to relieve salary cap space at this year's draft. Whoever manages to land Brissett will immediately have an improved roster and a better locker room culture. It's really a damn shame that Brissett's time in Indianapolis has come to such a frustrating end. But much like Andrew Luck's experience, Colts fans are concerned about what their quarterback has done for them lately. Hopefully, Phillip Rivers doesn't suffer the same fate.
Jimmy Kennedy, who believes Jacoby Brissett deserves another year as the Colts starting QB, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org