Jacoby Brissett always seems to be around when a quarterback room is thrown into turmoil.
Brissett had a standout career at NC State, throwing for 2,662 yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions in his second and final year with the Wolfpack after transferring from Florida, where he was a backup over his freshman and sophomore seasons. That led to the Patriots selecting him in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The selection came just two years after they drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round in 2014.
Since arriving in the NFL, Brissett has carved out a career as an oft-used emergency starter. He has been thrust into the starting role for three different teams at various points in his career due to injuries and/or suspensions. When he opens the season for the Browns on Sunday against the Panthers, he will officially make it four different teams as the starter.
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With Brissett set to begin the first 11 games of the 2022 campaign as Cleveland’s starter, The Sporting News takes a look at how he arrived at his fourth NFL franchise, and how he landed as a starter for each team.
Jacoby Brissett career timeline
Stats: 3 games (2 starts), 61.8 completion percentage, 400 passing yards, 0 passing TDs, 0 interceptions, 16 carries, 83 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
When the 2016 NFL Draft came around, it began to look more likely Tom Brady was, after all, headed for a suspension. Three days before the NFL draft, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit threw out the decision to vacate Brady’s four-game suspension, putting it back on the table. That left New England with just Garoppolo as the team’s backup and presumed starter in Brady’s absence.
While it wasn’t until July that Brady announced he would stop fighting the suspension, the Patriots wasted no time, spending their third-round selection on Brissett to add him to the fold as the backup quarterback.
That wound up being a wise decision. During the second game of the season, Garoppolo was injured against the Dolphins, and had to exit the contest. He would not appear in another game for the Patriots.
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Enter Brissett. The rookie out of NC State was thrust into the action right away, finishing the 31-24 win against the Dolphins after he completed 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards. New England largely kept the ball out of his hands in his first NFL start. The Patriots gave LeGarrette Blount 24 handoffs against the Texans while Brissett attempted only 19 passes, completing 11, in a 27-0 victory. Brissett also rushed eight times for 48 yards and a touchdown.
The next game, Brissett was given more work in the passing game, but was underwhelming. He completed 17-of-25 passes for 205 yards without a score, and the Patriots rushed only 22 times. New England was shut out 16-0 by the Bills for the first loss of the season.
Brady came back for Week 5 against the Browns, and the New England offense blew the doors off Cleveland in a 33-13 victory. That same week, Brissett was placed on injured reserve with thumb surgery. With Brady back, the Patriots tore through the rest of the season, losing only one game and ultimately beating the Falcons 34-28 in the Super Bowl.
Brissett went through most of the offseason with New England, but leading up to the 2017 season, an injury to an AFC South quarterback opened up a job for him, and he was traded.
Stats: 46 games (30 starts), 59.5 completion percentage, 6,059 passing yards, 31 passing TDs, 13 interceptions, 143 carries, 500 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs
After the 2016 season, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck needed shoulder surgery for an injury that had plagued him during the 2015 campaign. He missed training camp and preseason, and concerns began to grow that he would miss part of the regular season. As it would turn out, Luck would not play a game for Indianapolis in 2016.
Sending wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots, the Colts acquired Brissett to provide some depth to the room with Scott Tolzien the backup quarterback and presumed starter with Luck out. Tolzien’s season-opening start against the Rams did not go well. He completed only 9-of-18 passes for 128 yards with two picks in a 46-9 loss. Brissett came in for relief and went 2-for-3 with 51 yards. The next week, Brissett was the starter.
Brissett’s first start as a Colt wasn’t great, as the team lost 16-13 to the Cardinals with Brissett throwing his first interception, but he was improved in Week 3 against the Browns, completing 70.8 percent of his passes for 259 yards with a passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns.
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Brissett was an adequate, if uninspiring quarterback. The Colts finished the year 4-12 with an offense that ranked 30th in points and 31st in yards. Brissett finished the season with a career-best 3,098 passing yards with 13 touchdowns, seven picks and a completion percentage of 58.8. He also rushed 63 times for 260 yards and four touchdowns. Among 42 qualifying quarterbacks, Brissett graded as the 32nd best, per ProFootballFocus.
Luck was back in 2018, and so were the Colts. Indianapolis went 10-6 and reached the playoffs behind an offense that scored the fifth-most points and tallied the seventh-most yards. Brissett appeared in four games and attempted four passes.
Then, the unexpected. Luck abruptly made the decision to retire on Aug. 24, 2019. The team was two weeks away from the start of the season, and there was little time to prepare anyone else to step in. Brissett, who was in line to back Luck up for a second year, was back as the starter. As the season was about to begin, he signed a two-year, $30 million deal with the Colts that replaced the final year of his four-year rookie contract.
The offense, again, took a major hit with Brissett under center. While it was overall a better season than his first time as the team’s starter, the Colts still managed just the 16th-most points and 25th-most yards in the league, while finishing the year 7-9. Brissett threw 18 touchdowns, a career-best mark, with 2,942 passing yards and six picks while completing 60.9 percent of his passes. He also rushed 56 times for 228 yards and four touchdowns.
Following the disappointing campaign and with an offseason to devise a plan for the quarterback room, the Colts signed former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year, $25 million deal. The Colts’ offense went back to humming once again, ranking ninth and 10th in points and yards, respectfully, while reaching the playoffs and going 11-5. Brissett attempted eight passes.
After the season, Brissett went out into free agency for the first time in his career.
Stats: 11 games (five starts), 62.7 completion percentage, 1,283 passing yards, 5 passing TDs, 4 interceptions, 19 rushes, 70 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
Brissett signed with the Dolphins in March 2021 as the backup QB behind the team’s 2020 first round pick Tua Tagovailoa, who was going to be getting his first chance to open the season as the team’s starter.
That first start went well, as Tagovailoa led the Dolphins to a 17-16 win against Brissett’s former team, the Patriots. However, in Week 2 against the Bills, Tagovailoa was set down with a rib injury, once again calling in Brissett. His number was called a lot to pass as he completed 24-of-40 pass attempts that netted 169 yards with a pick as the Dolphins lost 35-0 to the Bills.
Brissett started the next three games for Miami, completing 67 percent of his passes during that span for 689 yards with four touchdowns, one interception and adding in a rushing score as well. Despite the improved numbers, the Dolphins still went 0-3 in that span.
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Tagovailoa returned to start over the next three weeks, but missed Week 9 against the Texans with a finger injury. Brissett started both against Houston and Baltimore, but Tagovailoa came into the game against Baltimore late after Brissett was knocked out with a knee injury and finish off them 22-10 win. Those two games kicked off what would be a seven-game winning streak by Miami.
Brissett’s appearance against the Ravens was the final game in which he would attempt a pass for Miami with Tagovailoa back under center.
On March 18, the Browns traded a huge package of picks to the Texans for Deshaun Watson. Expecting a suspension for Watson, who faced accusations of sexual assault and harassment from more than 20 women, the Browns signed Brissett to a one-year deal exactly a week later.
Despite rumors swirling during the offseason that Cleveland might use its 2022 cap flexibility to take on another quarterback like Garoppolo, the Browns have stuck with Brissett to be the team’s starter with Watson now suspended for 11 games to start the 2022 season.