Quarterback Jacoby Brissett Paid Well to be Team Player for Indianapolis Colts
Phillip B. Wilson
The Indianapolis Colts’ company line is that quarterback Jacoby Brissett has handled his offseason demotion to backup like a professional.
Whether that assessment is coming from general manager Chris Ballard, head coach Frank Reich, or quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady, it’s not the whole story. And how could it be?
Reich and Brady acknowledged in recent Zoom video conference calls that they’ve had multiple conversations with Brissett, the 2019 starter who became a backup again when the Colts signed 17th-year pro Philip Rivers to a one-year, $25-million contract.
Brady recalled how he was once demoted during his playing days, so he can relate. But first things first, he needed to listen to Brissett’s initial frustration.
“Yeah, just kind of let him vent a little bit to me, just be a sounding board for him,” Brady said in a June 4th Zoom video conference call.
The reality of the situation is Brissett won’t be happy in this situation, although Rivers and Brissett have been texting regularly and building a relationship for that quarterback room. Every player in the NFL wants to play, no matter what.
But Brissett understands his role. He was going to be the backup in 2019 before Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired, which meant Brissett received a new two-year extension befitting his elevated status as a starter.
That means Brissett will be paid $21.4 million as a backup in 2020. That’s a lot of money to ensure he handles this situation professionally. The Colts could have cut their losses and tried to save some of that salary by releasing him, but Ballard was convinced Brissett had enough value to be kept.
Ballard has to think about all possible scenarios. There’s no guarantee Rivers will flourish. He’s 38 and the Chargers decided to move on without him, so there’s some doubt about how well he can bounce back with the Colts. If he doesn’t, the Colts can turn to Brissett, who played well when the Colts started 5-2 but then struggled in the second half as the team lost seven of nine.
Therein lies another reality: The Colts wouldn’t have signed Rivers if they were convinced Brissett was their guy. The Colts signed Rivers because they considered the eight-time Pro Bowl passer an upgrade.
That can’t sit well with the backup, but also remember the New England Patriots didn’t think enough of Brissett to keep him, either, trading him to the Colts for wide receiver Philip Dorsett.
Reich conceded on Monday about Brissett being relegated to a backup role again: “I do think that was hard.”
If anyone knows what that’s like, it’s Reich, who was highly regarded as one of the NFL’s best backups during his playing career.
When asked how Brissett is handling the adjustment, Reich gave the expected positive spin.
“Just like you guys know he would,” Reich said. “He’s a pro and he wants to do what is right for the team. He knows. He and I have had multiple conversations about that, but Jacoby doesn’t need me to tell him what to do. He knows what to do.
“I’m his friend and I’m his coach so I try – I’ve been in his position to some degree. So do I try to lend an encouraging voice every now and then? Yeah, but he’s doing it the right way. We need him to be who he is this year for us to get where we want to go. Whether that means he ends up playing some games or playing a number of plays or even if he’s just there to support Philip and this team, Jacoby will be a big part of our success.”
Then Brissett can be expected to depart in free agency to search for another opportunity. Again, he’s in the last year of a contract that pays him well.
As Reich knows from his career, some guys never shed that label of being backups. Reich stepped in and provided some memorable moments, most notably when the Buffalo Bills trailed 35-3 and Reich pulled off a 41-38 comeback playoff victory over the Houston Oilers in 1993.
It wasn’t all Brissett’s fault that the team faded last season. But his weaknesses were also obvious — the passer didn’t throw the ball down the field enough and his lack of vision in failing to spot open receivers was also evident.
As much as this situation might be difficult for him to stomach, Brissett will have another chance some day to prove himself worthy as a starter. It just doesn’t seem like that will come with the Colts.
(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is email@example.com.)