Following Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, attention now turns to his interim on-field replacement — one who could play a major role for the Cleveland Browns this season.
Jacoby Brissett is expected to take over the starting QB role in Watson’s absence (the NFL has until Thursday morning to appeal the decision by disciplinary official Sue L. Robinson, while the NFL Players Association previously announced it would not appeal the decision).
Brissett, 29, has started games in the past for three different franchises, including five games last season with the Dolphins while filling in for an injured Tua Tagovailoa. He also started 30 games in four seasons with the Colts and helped replace the suspended Tom Brady early in the 2016 NFL season with the Patriots.
Getting into the mix is nothing new. Brissett was forced into an early start as a rookie when Jimmy Garoppolo was injured during Brady’s four-game suspension. A year later he was traded to Indianapolis in August after Andrew Luck’s injury situation worsened and Brissett ended up starting 15 games for the Colts that season.
The Browns have been preparing for a possible Watson layoff for months, and Brissett is the expected understudy in Cleveland. He says he’s ready for work.
“Since I’ve been in this league, it’s been next,” Brissett said Tuesday. “That was the case my rookie year, so the experience helps not only with the game, but with the mindset of understanding that you have to be ready whenever your number is called.”
He added: “It feels good that you have that trust between the organization. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Watson had been getting the bulk of the first-team reps in Browns camp before Monday’s six-game suspension, but that should change now that the decision has been made. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Brissett made an early impression after joining the team this offseason and that his previous experience as a backup was considered a big asset to the team.
“He’s been in a few different positions already in his young career,” Stefanski said. “He has a very good way about him. Very, very smart. A very good leader. He has the ability to make plays on the field, help in the meeting room. Be accountable throughout the weight room. He just does all the right things .”
It’s a tense moment for the Browns. Watson’s condition has shrouded the franchise in negativity for months and will likely continue to do so as long as he continues to play until Watson’s eventual return — and beyond.
Perhaps the gentle Brissett could be a solid antidote to the situation. Asked what it would be like to leave his starting job after leading the Browns to a 6-0 record, Brissett said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we cross that bridge.”