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Jacoby Brissett ready for starting role, grateful for trust of organization

BEREA — The trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson wasn’t a day old when the Browns shipped backup Case Keenum to Buffalo and signed veteran Jacoby Brissett.

The moves were calculated and critical.

A multigame suspension of Watson seemed inevitable, and general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski wanted an experienced backup they were confident could win games as the starter, fit in when he was on the bench and has a similar playing style to Watson.

More than four months later, the Browns haven’t wavered in their belief in Brissett. With Watson suspended for the first six games — pending a potential appeal by the NFL — Brissett will be the man charged with making sure the Browns get off to a solid start.


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“It feels good that you have that trust amongst the organization,” Brissett said before practice Tuesday, a day after Watson’s suspension was announced. “I’m excited for the opportunity. Extremely confident in myself and my abilities. We’re a long way from Week 1, so just continue to get better.”

Watson continues to get the bulk of the first-team reps, but Brissett has taken a few for the last three practices. Those will increase as the season approaches and coach Kevin Stefanski shifts to getting Brissett ready for the opener Sept. 11 in Carolina.

“It’s extremely important, obviously, because those are the guys I’ll be with, so just keep taking advantage of those reps,” Brissett said. “We have a plan in place. We believe in the plan and we’re going about it the right way, so when it comes it will come.”

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He credited his mom, family and high school coaches for his confidence, saying if they believe in him why should he doubt himself. Leading the team won’t be a problem.

“I never look at myself as a backup,” Brissett said. “I’m just another quarterback on the roster. That trumps everything and I think the leadership just comes from within. Just the natural position that I’m in that it kind of comes out.”

Linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. was a rookie with the Colts in 2017 when Brissett arrived. They’re both from South Florida but Brissett didn’t talk to him until the season was over.

They’ve been close since.

“I’ve known Jacoby for so long. I know the way he prepares, his mindset,” Walker said. “Whether he’s a starter or a backup, he’s going to prepare as he’s the starter. That’s the love of the game that he has, the respect of the game that he has.

“He knows everybody in this organization believes in him and we’ve got his back.”

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The Browns like plenty about Brissett, with Stefanski mentioning his size (6-foot-4, 235), arm strength and decision-making. His variety of experiences at 29 years old was also a significant selling point.

Brissett’s NFL debut came earlier than expected as a rookie in 2016 after the Patriots drafted him in the third round out of North Carolina State. Tom Brady got suspended for Deflategate, and Jimmy Garoppolo was injured in Week 2. Brissett came off the bench then started the next two games.

After being traded to the Colts before the next season, Brissett took over as the starter in Week 2 with Andrew Luck out for the season with an injury. Brissett went back into the lineup when Luck unexpectedly retired before the 2019 season.

The uncertainty surrounding Watson is nothing new.

“It’s been my situation throughout my career,” Brissett said. “It’s nothing that I’m unfamiliar with, always being ready to go when my number has been called and that’s the case now.”

“Very, very intelligent,” Stefanski said. “A very good leader. Has the ability to make plays on the practice field, help in the meeting room and be accountable throughout the weight room. He just does all of the right things.”

Brissett is 14-23 as a starter with 36 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, completing 60 percent for an 83.0 passer rating. In his last full season as a starter, 2019, he went 7-8 and threw 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He went 2-3 as a starter last year with the Dolphins.

Wins and losses don’t necessarily fall on a quarterback, and Walker said the Browns roster is the best of Brissett’s career.

“We’re just getting into camp so it’s hard to tell,” Brissett said. “I’m excited about the team.”

Watson and Brissett were AFC South rivals for four years, so they knew each other before arriving in Cleveland in the spring.

“It’s been a relationship that we’ve been working on every day,” Brissett said. “He’s been a good friend, a good teammate, a good player, so I’m excited for our relationship to grow.”

Watson hasn’t talked to reporters in camp, including since independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson handed down the suspension Monday.

“Obviously tough news but can only go forward, right?” Brissett said when asked how Watson took the news.

In practice Tuesday, Brissett threw a screen to running back Nick Chubb that turned into a big gain after Chubb hurdled a defender, hit fullback Johnny Stanton IV on an out and threw a hook to rookie receiver Michael Woods II. Playing with the second-team offense against the first-team defense, Brissett showed great touch on a swing pass to rookie running back Jerome Ford and hit tight end Miller Forristall on a crossing route.

Stefanski will tailor his game plans to accentuate the strengths of whoever’s at quarterback.

“There are certain plays that Jacoby sees really well and maybe has a lot of reps on that Deshaun does not,” he said. “That is just part of our job as coaches is understanding that there is no shortage of plays that you can run, but it is making sure that the players are comfortable running those plays.”

“Excited to see what that will be,” Brissett said. “Obviously it’s a work in progress. Still learning, still getting better, still learning more of the offense and the players and the guys in a more competitive setting. So excited about that and then we’ll see how the game plan looks when the games come around.”

Walker still looks back on 2019 with the Colts with disappointment. They started 5-2 but were hit with injuries, including one to Brissett that cost him a game at midseason.

“People forget we were a really good football team with him as our starting quarterback before we had a lot of guys go down,” Walker said. “Jacoby is a pro. I’m happy that he has another opportunity now and all the guys in the locker room and in this organization believe in him and we’re ready.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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