The Cleveland Browns now know they will play at least the first six games of the 2022 regular season without starting quarterback Deshaun Watson after Watson was suspended for six games on Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
In Watson’s place, the Browns will turn to Jacoby Brissett, who has made 37 starts for three different teams - the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots - in his six-year NFL career.
The majority of those starts, 30 to be exact, came during his time with the Colts as Brissett started 15 games in both the 2017 and 2019 seasons. Those seasons Brissett stepped in for starting quarterback Andrew Luck, first when Luck missed the year with an injury and then when Luck retired.
One of Brissett’s teammates with the Colts was linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., now reunited with Brissett on the Browns. His familiarity with Brissett gives Walker a unique perspective on the team’s new (temporary) starting quarterback, and when asked about it on Tuesday, Walker said he believes those past lessons will serve Brissett well in Cleveland (quotes via a team-provided transcript):
“(Jacoby) stepped in, and he was a pro. He handled it the right way. People forget that we were a really good football team with him as our starting quarterback before a lot of guys go down. I think we were 5-2 and had just beat Kansas City in Kansas City. We were rolling at that point and then took a couple of bad bumps and got a lot of guys injured. Jacoby is a pro. He is prepared and he is going to prepare every day like he is the starter whether he is a starter or he is a backup. He is always prepared to go, and he is always ready so he never has to get ready.”
Walker also downplayed the reputation that Brissett has picked up as nothing more than a game manager:
“The No. 1 job of the quarterback is to control the game. I don’t care what anybody says. I think all of the good quarterbacks can say that they are a game manager, and most quarterbacks you want to be a game manager and then you want your playmakers to make plays for you. He does that. He gets his guys the ball in space. Obviously, the job is a lot easier when you have (RBs) No. 24 (Nick Chubb), No. 27 (Kareem Hunt) and No. 30 (D’Ernest Johnson) and all of those guys that hand the ball off to. You have No. 2 (WR Amari Cooper) running deep overs and No. 85 (TE David Njoku) running everywhere. We have a plethora of guys to use to get the ball. You are playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the game, and that makes it a lot better.”
Walker could be just a wee bit guilty of over-selling a teammate, but Brissett’s experiences with the Colts certainly does not hurt. And as Walker points out, the Browns have a lot of talent on offense, which should make Brissett’s job a bit easier.
It also helps that the coaching staff knows now, as opposed to a few days before the start of the season, that Watson will not be available for at least the first six games. That gives head coach Kevin Stefanski plenty of time to discover what Brissett does well and then give him the practice time he needs to prepare for the start of the season.
It may not be the way the Browns wanted the situation to go, but given his history, Brissett may be the right man for the job.