A 29-year-old top-five quarterback stepping away from a Super Bowl-contending team less than two weeks before the season opener… It will take months for the shock of Andrew Luck’s retirement to wear off. Luck will go down as one of the great “what could have been” players of all-time, right up there with other superstars turned shooting stars like Gale Sayers, Terrell Davis and Tony Boselli. The Colts may never find a better quarterback.
But fortunately for Indianapolis, the team’s next quarterback is already on the roster. Jacoby Brissett goes from being football’s best backup to the starter on what is still the team to beat in the AFC South. To be clear: Brissett is NOT Andrew Luck. His promotion represents a downgrade at the position for the Colts. But this doesn’t mean Brissett can’t become elite.
The fourth-year pro is a big, strong pocket passer, which is still what mostly predicates NFL offensive success. Starting 15 games for an injured Luck in 2017, Brissett showed the mental toughness and mechanical dexterity to make throws from muddy pockets—a vital trait for an NFL quarterback. He’ll negotiate fewer muddy pockets this year behind a rising young Colts offensive line that is worlds better than the one he worked with before.
Brissett is also more mobile than he appears. He gives Indy’s ground game a zone-read dimension and a bootleg threat, which can make edge defenders passive against the run. If he can develop as an on-the-move thrower, he’ll dominate because Brissett’s arm is enviable. He throws with outstanding velocity and, unlike other one-speed fastball hurlers such as Cam Newton or Josh Allen, he’s shown some capacity for taking heat off the ball and delivering with touch.
Critically, there’s still room to improve on those touch throws, as Frank Reich’s scheme is built predominantly around quick strikes. It’s one of football’s best offensive systems, with a diverse run game (which Brissett adds to) and two-and three-man route combinations that out-leverage most zone coverages and often have answers for man-to-man. Running Rob Chudzinksi’s offense in 2017, Brissett showed a strong sense for getting through multiple progressions on schedule. Yes, he could be inconsistent here and didn’t always deliver with anticipation, but that was to be expected given his youth.
That youth is no more—Brissett turns 27 in December. He spent his first NFL season learning New England’s offense and studying behind Tom Brady, and he spent his second season starting 15 games. He played well enough that Indy turned down lucrative trade offers, and so Brissett’s third season was spent learning Reich’s advanced offense and studying behind Luck. The Jacoby Brissett of 2019 is not a developmental project—he’s a high-ceiling starting quarterback for a team that should still expect to go far in this year’s playoffs.
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