Nat Newell, Indianapolis Star
Published 3:45 p.m. ET Aug. 29, 2019 | Updated 4:11 p.m. ET Aug. 29, 2019
Insiders Joel A. Erickson and Jim Ayello discuss the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck on this week’s IndyStar’s Colts Cover-2 podcast.
Clark Wade, Clark.Wade@Indystar.com
The biggest question for the Indianapolis Colts entering the season opener on Sept. 8 is, obviously, how good is Jacoby Brissett?
But whether you’re a Colts fan or a fantasy football player, you want to know what that means.
Fortunately, there’s a baseline to project what to expect from Brissett: Luck.
Let’s be clear, Brissett is not Luck. But Luck played in Chuck Pagano offenses from 2012-16 and then Reich’s in 2018. Brissett played for Pagano in 2017 and will be playing for Reich in 2019. It’s possible to look at the changes in Luck’s performance and see how they might translate to Brissett.
Under Reich, Luck completed a higher percentage of passes (.673 vs. .592) and improved his percentages for touchdowns (6.1% of his throws vs. 5.0%), interceptions (2.3% vs. 2.6%) and sacks (2.7% of his dropbacks vs. 5.6%). His yards per completion dropped (from 12.2 to 10.7) but his yards per attempt remained the same (7.2) due to the increase in accuracy. His quarterback rating improved from 87.3 to 98.7.
Playing for Pagano, Brissett was similar to Luck in accuracy, significantly worse at throwing touchdowns, avoiding sacks and getting the ball downfield, and better at avoiding interceptions.
Again, these aren’t similar quarterbacks and Luck (who improved statistically under Pagano) was at a different point in his career with Reich than Brissett is. It’s possible Brissett won’t be able to alter his approach in the same manner as Luck, but Reich believes he can. This approach is hardly perfect but we can make a guess at Brissett’s 2019 statistics by projecting the improvement Luck made onto Brissett’s 2017 performance.
I’ll spare you the nitty gritty math but if we prorate Brissett’s 2017 numbers to 16 games (he only threw 3 passes in the season opener), then adjust his numbers at the same rate Luck’s were, we get:
>> .668 completion percentage
>> 3,423 yards
>> 18 touchdowns
>> 7 interceptions
>> 92.0 quarterback rating
>> 26 sacks
A 92.0 quarterback rating would have slotted Brissett in at No. 23, between Marcus Mariota and Nick Mullens, last season. Quarterback rating isn’t everything but projecting Brissett to be a top 20 quarterback isn’t farfetched with this method.
Brissett has two weaknesses he must address. The first is his accuracy; he’s completed 59.1% of his passes for his career. Getting to 66.8% would alleviate the issue. That’s a big jump but quarterbacks have made similar improvements, though Brissett has been uneven at times this preseason.
The second is his touchdown percentage. Even with a projected improvement under Reich, Brissett’s at 3.4%, which would have been tied for 27th among the 34 quarterbacks who made at least 7 starts last season. His 1.3 interception rate, however, would be fourth, behind Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. That’s pretty good company.
Quarterbacks with similar statistical profiles over the year include: 1995 Troy Aikman (the weakest comp given the differences in the eras), 2015 Teddy Bridgewater, 2015 Jay Cutler, 2014-16 Alex Smith, 2006 Chad Pennington and 2016 Ryan Tannehill.
One thing worth noting about that group: Only Cutler had a losing record. These eight quarterback seasons went an average of 9.6-5.6. The Las Vegas line on Colts’ wins dropped from 9.5 to 6.5, but perhaps, gamblers should be more optimistic.
So do you want Brissett on your fantasy team? Probably not. Is he Andrew Luck? Definitely not. Can you win in the NFL with the right pieces around him? Probably.
Contact IndyStar Deputy Sports Editor Nat Newell at (317) 444-6182 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NatJNewell.
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- More: Hard part for Jacoby Brissett isn’t becoming the Colts starter; it’s missing Andrew Luck