Initially when Jacoby Brissett took the field for the Indianapolis Colts last season, it didn’t matter what his ceiling was. He was better than Scott Tolzien, and we were expecting to see Andrew Luck on the field within a handful of weeks. Obviously, as the season wore on, we realized that Luck wasn’t coming back and we were then expecting Brissett to show some signs of development.
We did see some improvement, in some aspects, but not enough. Brissett was very inconsistent, couldn’t put drives together in the second halves of games and simply didn’t push the ball down the field nearly enough given all of the opportunities he had.
He was prematurely looking for a way to escape the pocket, and would lower his eyes and the ball when he was mobile, taking any downfield options off of the table. We were constantly hearing from outside entities that the Colts were lucky Brissett was there, but he amassed only one game-winning drive and didn’t have a single fourth-quarter comeback.
In a season in which the Colts were in 9 one-score contests, his lack of resolve was quite evident.
Brissett’s stats weren’t anything to brag about either. He was 22nd in the league with 3098 passing yards, 27th in touchdown passes (13), 24th in adjusted net yards per attempt (5.26) and 30th in completion rate (58.8%). With all of that said, I wanted to see how Brissett stacked up against other first-year quarterbacks over the past several years.
Some of them started as rookies, many of them didn’t start the majority of a season until they were a few years into their career. However, after comparing his 2017 campaign to other’s first year under center, I didn’t see the results that I expected to.
We didn’t get extremely in-depth with the statistical comparison here. Touchdowns, interceptions, completion rate, passing yards, yards per attempt and first downs earned were the marks we’re looking at in this case.
Quite honestly, I expected Brissett to be near the bottom of the group. When considering the quality quarterbacks we’ve seen enter the league since 2011 (Luck, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton just to name a few) I just didn’t give Brissett much of a chance to even fall in the middle of the pack.
Brissett did indeed land in the bottom 10 of that group in touchdown passes (13), amongst the likes of Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, E.J. Manuel and Blake Bortles. However, the only other category that he fell into that bottom-10 grouping was first downs (139). Of the 29 QBs tracked, he was 19th in that regard with guys like Manuel, Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, Mike Glennon — along with some others already named — among the group ranking below even that.
Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kiser (bottom-10 in all 6) were also below Brissett’s statistical marks but were on pretty awful rosters themselves and Trubisky started only 12 games. Brissett only threw 7 interceptions in 469 attempts (20th in the NFL last season) in his first year as a starter, but his 2.8% touchdown rate was the concerning part with all of those attempts just the same.
Brissett didn’t fall in the bottom-10 in completion percentage, though he did land only one spot away (18th), amongst the other first-year quarterbacks in comparison, and was also only two spots from the bottom-10 in, both, passing yards (17th) as well as yards per attempt (6.6).
It’s very difficult to discern what Brissett’s potential could within this comparison though.
Guys like Dalton, Bridgewater, Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Foles, Winston and Carson Wentz were all in that bottom-10 distinction in at least two categories with their first-year numbers and have all proven that — at a minimum — they are capable of being starters in this league. As we know, there is more to being a starter in the NFL than stats. The real question will be, whether or not Brissett can be coached out of his bad habits, and if the Colts new staff has the ability to develop him to reach his potential.
As much as you, or I, want and expect Andrew Luck back in the saddle next season, the situation cannot be pushed aside until Luck is starting games and looking like his former self. In the meantime, Brissett is in a position in which he needs to be working to re-escalate his value to the roster.
If Chris Ballard can eventually rely on him to become a trusted backup, those terrible habits that he exhibited last season will have to become extinct. Brissett will have to be more willing to fit the ball in to small windows, as he quickly found out last season that a couple feet of light is open in the NFL. He’ll have to rely on his timing, and become more natural in his drops as well. Footwork, working through progressions in a timely manner and processing quicker are all massive needs for his growth at the position.
Do these comparisons to the other quarterbacks mean that Brissett will, or won’t become a quality NFL backup and maybe one day a starter? I don’t think so. However, I do think we can take some solace in that many others on this list have succeeded in one way or another and that his natural, physical attributes are in place to assist in that goal if he can cover the rest with hard work and repetition.