Can the Browns make the playoffs with Jacoby Brissett?
By: Ivan Mulinder
There is no news yet on whether Deshaun Watson will play in the 2022 season for the Cleveland Browns. He has 24 civil lawsuits against him, but two Texan grand juries said there wasn’t enough evidence for criminal proceedings, so it’s hard to predict what the NFL will do. This article is going to make the assumption that Watson will be banned for a number of games in 2022 (possibly as many as 6+ contests). This leads to the ultimate question: so what are the implications for the Browns upcoming season?
The Cleveland Browns have built a very good roster on both offense and defense, one that should be competing for the AFC North and the AFC Championship, but how much of this expectation is based on Deshaun Watson being the starting QB for the entire season? What is going to happen if Jacoby Brissett starts the first half of the season, or even plays the entire season? To try and answer this question we have to look at his meaningful playing time.
Jacoby Brissett was drafted in the 3rd Round in 2016 with pick 29. This will be his seventh season and he has started 37 of 60 games with 14 wins and 23 losses. He’s had 3 meaningful seasons in terms of playing time under his belt in 2021, 2019 and 2017. Let’s have a look at his stats in those three seasons.
2021 Season Stats
- Played 11 games
- 1,283 yards, 116.6 yards per game
- 141 completions, 62.7% completion rate
- 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
- Passer Rating 78.1
2019 Season Stats
- Played 15 games
- 2,942 yards
- 272 completions, 60.8% completion rate
- 18 touchdowns, 6 interceptions
- Passer Rating 88.0
2017 Season Stats
- Played 16 games
- 3,098 yards
- 276 completions, 58.8% completion rate
- 13 touchdowns, 7 interceptions
- Passer Rating 81.7
There’s a lot to potentially like here, but there are also some serious question marks in these stats. On the positive side, a Passer Rating of over 80 is considered to be good for a QB. Jacoby Brissett can therefore be considered a good QB. When given enough playing time he has accumulated some very good total yardage (with 2 of his 3 seasons averaging 3,000 yards). In both 2019 and 2021, he had a decent completion % and he is capable of putting some rushing yards on the ground if required with 260 rushing yards in 2017 and 228 in 2019. He rarely fumbles the ball with only 3 fumbles each in seasons 2017 & 2019.
On the other hand, there is clearly a lack of touchdowns. Good QBs would be expected to hit over 20+ in a season with closer to 30 being ideal. His interception rate per touchdown isn’t comfortable reading and his win-loss record has always been negative. In 2017 – he went 4-11 with the Colts and in 2019 he went 7-8. Statistically, he consistently ranks between 20-30 in the QB rankings depending on what data you look at. For example, with his air yards per attempt in 2021, he ranked 27th.
There are signs that the Cleveland Browns have a QB in Jacoby Brissett that can keep them competitive if he’s asked to start the first 6-8 games. The Colts went 7-8 in 2019, but they started the season 5-2. In the last two games, Brissett won two contests: beating Baltimore 22-10 (with 11 completions for 156 yards and a completion percentage of 70.2%) & Houston 17-9 (with 26 completions for 244 yards and a completion percentage of 64.5%). In addition, take a look at these more advanced passing rankings for last season:
- Deep Ball Catchable Pass Rate 1st
- Pressured Accuracy Rating 2nd
- Red Zone Accuracy Rating 2nd
- Accuracy Rating v Zone 2nd
- Clean Pocket Accuracy Rating 4th
- Deep Ball Accuracy Rating 7th
The Browns have a very strong run game with possibly the best OL in the NFL. With the run game getting Brissett to the Red Zone where he’s very accurate, and his OL giving him great protection to throw deep balls in a clean pocket, where he’s also very accurate, the Browns Front Office might just have the perfect backup for their first half of the season. Who do the Browns play in their first 6-8 games? In their first 6 games they play:
- @ Carolina (win?)
- v NY Jets (win?)
- v Pittsburgh (win?)
- @ Atlanta (win?)
- v Chargers
- v New England (win?)
The Browns then play away in Baltimore before another home game against Cincinnati followed by their Bye week. If Watson is banned for the first 6 games the season isn’t over for the Browns with Brissett more than capable of managing game wins over most of their opponents. However, if Watson gets 8+ game bans then we have to remember that Brissett is a 3rd Round pick and the stats would suggest that the more games he plays the more average to below-average he becomes. He is a backup QB and the Browns need Deshaun Watson playing if they’re going to win Championships.