When news broke on late Saturday afternoon that Colts QB Andrew Luck would be pulling the pin on his NFL career, it’s fair to say a huge proportion of the football world couldn’t believe their eyes.
Well, believe it.
The Luck era in Indianapolis is officially over.
Unsurprisingly, despite the NFL’s own Power Rankings having the Colts sitting in 5th overall just 7 days ago, the write-off from NFL pundits and fans alike has come thick and fast.
In the wake of Luck’s retirement, CBS Sports remarkably had Indy plummeting from 6th down to 22nd, now sitting behind the likes of Denver and San Francisco.
Now, of course, Jacoby Brissett is no Andrew Luck. In either the brain department or the footballing department, judging by some of his Tweets.
However, he’s no chump. Nor, on any metric, could any analyst in good faith claim that he alone makes the Colts 16 teams worse than they were prior to Saturday’s announcement.
Brissett – a 26-year-old career backup – was acquired by the Colts from New England literally a week before the 2017 season opener and thrust in to a starting role as soon as he walked in the door thanks to Luck’s inability to shake a recurring shoulder injury.
Despite one decent receiver in T.Y. Hilton, no running game to speak of, a notoriously awful coaching staff, a porous offensive line and one tight end even close to NFL standard, Brissett went off for 3,098 passing yards, 260 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions over the 2017 season. The Colts went 4-12 that year but it was certainly no fault of Brissett’s, with the then-24-year-old putting up an 81.7 passer rating over the season which ranked him higher than the likes of Joe Flacco, Cam Newton and Jay Cutler.
That he also took a league-leading 52 sacks could be seen as evidence of a lack of ability to escape from the pocket, but, you know, it might also have been that offensive line. The same offensive line which a surprising number of people blame for forcing Andrew Luck in to retirement.
Long story short, Brissett is far from your average NFL backup. The Colts know this. It’s why they’ve refused to trade him anywhere, despite a plethora of attractive offers. GM Chris Ballard is on record earlier this year stating they would need an offer that would “blow [him] away” if there was any chance of offloading Brissett.
Reportedly head coach Frank Reich – himself a career backup – told Brissett in the 2018 preseason, as Luck prepared to return, that he was a top-20 quarterback in the league. Not a top 20 backup QB, a top 20 QB.
That’s really no surprise. Brissett’s formative years in the NFL were underneath Bill Belichik and behind Tom Brady, while the fact that the Patriots were prepared to spend a third round pick on a QB out of NC State should tell you everything you need to know about how highly that vaunted organisation rated him.
He also has the priceless experience of being thrust in to the fire – as a 24-year-old no less – and being given the reigns of a terrible football team.
Which leads inexorably to the next point; there’s also the small matter that the Colts – prior to Saturday and still now – are a good football team. They are not the 2017 edition.
T.Y. Hilton remains a star, but he’s been joined by Devin Funchess as well as tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron. Deon Cain and Parris Campbell round out a receiving corps that is deep and talented. Running backs Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines are also more than capable of catching the ball.
The Colts offensive line in 2018 was arguably the most elite in the game, and it returns all five starters. Brissett’s protection will be infinitely, INFINITELY better than it was in 2017.
They also have a head coach used to swinging enormous QB changes like this. Frank Reich famously retooled the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense around Nick Foles in the wake of Carson Wentz’s 2017 knee injury, and it resulted in a Super Bowl victory. If anyone can rebuild on the fly, it’s Reich.
Brissett had to find a way to perform his offensive duties in 2017 under Chuck Pagano and Rob Chudzinski. Reich – on all the evidence we have seen so far – plays chess where those two gentlemen were stuck playing checkers.
Brissett has a genuine chance to flourish after spending a year under Reich / Luck. The offense will – undoubtedly – be built in the same vein as Reich’s dink and dive, quick-release, heavy play-action passing scheme under which Foles performed so brilliantly.
Don’t count out the Colts. This team still has the talent to win it all.
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