Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich understands Jacoby Brissett’s predicament.
Brissett has twice emerged as the Colts’ starting quarterback and twice lost the position to an older player with a more accomplished resume — but neither of whom owned a Super Bowl ring as he does.
Reich, the longtime backup to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, plans to help Brissett cope with the frustration and disappointment of making yet another major transition: this time backing up eight-time Pro Bowler Philip Rivers.
“When the time was right, I called Jacoby and told him: ‘Hey, this looks like it may happen,’” Reich said on Tuesday, describing his initial conversation with Brissett. “We talked it through. Obviously, Jacoby wasn’t happy about it. He wasn’t happy about it, but he’s a great teammate — he’s a great leader. We all know that and I’m sure he’ll be good.”
All along, Reich and Colts general manager Chris Ballard have insisted they believe that Brissett possesses the skills to be a full-time NFL starting quarterback — and he has shown these skills during an almost unfathomable rollercoaster ride.
Brissett made his first significant appearance as Tom Brady’s replacement in 2016, going 1-1 in two starts.
The following September, with Andrew Luck still recovering from shoulder surgery, Brissett was traded to Indianapolis to back up Scott Tolzien.
Two weeks later, Brissett — still learning the Colts’ playbook — replaced Tolzien and wound up 4-11 as the starter, while enduring a league-high 52 sacks.
Luck reclaimed the starting job in 2018, leading the Colts to the playoffs and earning the league’s Comeback Player of the Year award.
However, when it looked as if Luck would be with the Colts for years, he suddenly retired last August, and Brissett once again inherited the starting job and led the Colts to a 5-2 start before injuring his knee and winning only two more games.
Now, less than seven months after signing a two-year US$30 million deal, Brissett heads into his contract season as Rivers’ backup. Rivers signed a one-year US$25 million contract.
Athough Reich knew that the conversation with Brissett would not be an easy call, he says that the decision was.
“Having been there on the inside [with the Los Angeles Chargers] for three years and knowing the quarterback position like I do, I was so confident that physically he [Rivers] was the right player and that he had not lost anything,” Reich said. “All of the throws I saw on film — and as I went back and studied him compared to previous throws — I really didn’t notice any physical gifts diminishing at all... You know how we talk about the juice in this place? This guy brings juice.”
The Colts’ coaches are talking about how to get Brissett on the field in special packages or certain circumstances, perhaps giving him as many as seven snaps per game.
It is Brissett’s turn once again to show that he can be ready at a moment’s notice and Reich expects nothing less.
“It’s a hard time when something like this happens,” Reich said. “When you look at a lot of championship teams, to me you better have a winning backup quarterback. You better have a guy that can step in there and win two or three, or however many games it takes if the starter gets dinged up. We have that in Jacoby.”
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