The Indianapolis Colts were dealt a massive blow to their season’s Super Bowl aspirations this past weekend (before it even started), as franchise quarterback Andrew Luck shockingly retired.
However, not all hope is lost—at least as far as it relates to being competitive in 2019 (potentially even a playoff team), as Colts backup Jacoby Brissett is capable of being a winning, starting quarterback in this league.
The Colts are blessed with a much stronger supporting cast to surround Brissett with then the rebuilding roster he inherited in 2017—starting 15 games in relief of Andrew Luck.
Having lost their star quarterback (only to retirement), the Colts will be looking to channel their inner 2017 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, who rode the hot hand of backup quarterback Nick Foles in the wake of star Carson Wentz’s season-ending injury.
The Colts will have to hope they can ultimately catch lightning in a bottle in order to hoist the elusive Lombardi Trophy—just like that season’s improbable Eagles.
There might be no better head coach to duplicate such surprising success than the Colts’ Frank Reich, who served as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator during that magical run.
With Brissett, the Colts will presumably have a much more run game oriented approach on offense—than they otherwise would’ve had with Andrew Luck this upcoming season.
Much like how the Eagles made Foles ‘comfortable’, I expect the Colts to do a lot of the same with Brissett, whether it’s bootlegs, play-action, or RPO’s—getting him out of the pocket and letting him simply make plays on the move, rather than always think standing inside the pocket.
That’s not to say that Brissett is going to add some ‘Mike Vick like running dimension’ to the Colts offense, as while the big man is deceptively mobile—he wouldn’t outrun a healthy Andrew Luck in a race (who was surprisingly fast).
However, I do expect the Colts to run a few more ‘wrinkles’ in their offense with Brissett than Luck, whether it’s more gadget plays, reverses, etc.—than traditional pocket passing for ingenuity’s sake and to keep opposing defenses guessing.
At 6’4,” 238 pounds, the 26 year old Brissett has always been blessed with a big arm, and he’s only improved with any additional meaningful playing time he has received in the NFL.
That being said, good starting quarterbacks in the NFL can consistently make the throws that are open and move the sticks.
It’s a reason why the 2011 Colts struggled so much at 2-14—not just because they desperately missed the legendary Peyton Manning, but because his replacement, Curtis Painter, couldn’t consistently make routine throws to open targets—often throwing too high or low.
However, what separates a ‘good’ quarterback from an ‘elite’ quarterback in the NFL, is that a great quarterback can make 3-5 ‘wow’ throws per game that the average quarterback simply cannot.
Andrew Luck could do this. Peyton Manning could do this. And Jacoby Brissett at least has the natural ability to potentially do this given his arm talent.
After two seasons with the Colts, Brissett had earned the opportunity to at least compete for a starting job elsewhere—however many fans (including myself) would’ve never imagined he’d be handed the starting job by default in Indianapolis this season.
It’s actually a very simple situation now for the Colts:
This season is a year-long audition for Brissett, in a contract year, where the Colts can see whether he’s the long-term answer at the starting quarterback position.
This ultimately comes down to whether the Colts believe they can theoretically win a Super Bowl with him behind center—when surrounded by a strong supporting cast.
The Colts should not treat him as a ‘game manager’ making a string of spot starts, but rather take off the reins and open up the offense—by seeing if he can make the necessary progressions, reads, and throws to be a high level starting quarterback.
By that same token, Reich has to place Brissett in passing situations where the young quarterback can truly ‘let it fly’ and make plays passing at times.
If Brissett cannot, the Colts could still look to franchise tag him for another season in 2020 as competition and a veteran presence; AND/OR use their first round pick in combination with the Washington Redskins’ 2nd round pick (which figures to be early) in order to trade up for a potential promising rookie quarterback—should one pique their interest.
Unfortunately, the 2020 NFL Draft Class does not have Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence—who comes just a year later, but it does feature the likes of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, and Georgia’s Jake Fromm among other highly touted quarterback prospects.
For having received simply tragic news over the weekend, the Colts surprisingly are in a potentially sound position to still find a long-term answer at the quarterback position—sooner rather than later.
Perhaps even down the road, a Super Bowl winning one—only time will tell.