Brissett is showing why Colts had confidence in him as Luck’s successor
Three weeks into his first season as Andrew Luck’s successor, Brissett appears to have made a seamless transition to becoming the Colts’ starter without changing a thing.
“He showed us how tough he is and he can carry himself and carry the team in a way (in 2017),” defensive tackle Margus Hunt said Wednesday. “I think (now) it’s coming from the coaching staff and how they get guys ready for games. It’s all about confidence.”
While Brissett has never been short on confidence, his humble, playful personality resonates with others.
The combination instantly turned Colts general manager Chris Ballard into every bit as big a fan as Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells has been since first crossing paths with Brissett almost a decade ago in South Florida.
But until recently, Brissett has been best known for playing the role of understudy to more prominent colleagues.
He started his college career at Florida, backing up highly touted recruit Jeff Driskel. Brissett won the job for two games as a freshman, lost it during the offseason and then transferred to North Carolina State, where he sat out the 2013 season because of the NCAA’s transfer rules.
Brissett finally emerged as the starter in 2014, led the Wolfpack to a 15-11 mark in two seasons and performed well enough that Patriots coach Bill Belichick drafted him in the third round in 2016.
He started his pro career by backing up Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo but wound up replacing the injured Garoppolo in a Week 2 victory over Miami and started the next two games while Brady served a four-game suspension because of Deflategate.
Brissett never threw another regular-season pass with New England, instead getting dealt to Indy on cutdown weekend in 2017 as Luck was recovering from shoulder surgery.
Eight days later, with Brissett still learning Indy’s playbook, he replaced Scott Tolzien in the second half of a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams and the starting gig was his.
Things didn’t go well for Brissett or the Colts that season. He went 4-11 as the starter, completed 58.8 percent of his throws, failed to win back-to-back games and was sacked a league-high 52 times. Coach Chuck Pagano was fired at the end of the season and a healthy Luck reclaimed the starting job last year.
But the Colts (2-1) saw something that season, convincing them Brissett would excel the next time he got a chance to start.
“I know this about Jacoby, he will not flinch. He won’t flinch,” Ballard predicted shortly after Luck suddenly announced he was retiring last month. “He didn’t when we brought him in here in ’17. Jacoby won’t flinch.”
So far, Brissett has fulfilled all of Ballard’s expectations.
His seven touchdown passes are tied for fourth in the league with Brady. He’s fourth among AFC starters in rating (112.0) and interceptions (one) and he’s third in the conference in fourth-quarter passing (125.0 rating).
It’s more than numbers, too.
He led the Colts on a last-minute drive to force overtime at the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. In Week 2, he continued the Colts’ mastery over Tennessee with his second career road win. And last weekend’s 27-24 victory over Atlanta was a career best.
Brissett started the game with 16 straight completions, tying Peyton Manning for the fifth-longest streak in franchise history, and wound up 28 of 37 for 310 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He managed to burn the final 4:11 before focusing on the big picture.
“I just love playing with this team, to be honest with you,” he said Tuesday. “It’s just a step in the right direction.”
Now comes the hard part — duplicating that performance week after week.
And everyone in the Indy locker room believes Brissett will consistently deliver in his new, expanded role.
“That’s my guy,” tight end Eric Ebron said. “Really, I’m just watching him grow and it’s fun to watch. It’s fun to be a part of it and be here for him.”