The New England Patriots and Bill Belichick are notorious for their unpredictable drafting strategy. In the past fifteen years, there have made no shortage of head-scratching picks. Some have turned out great, like Logan Mankins, but others like Chad Jackson have become infamous. After using a valued second-round pick on D1-AA phenom Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014, many were surprised when N.C. State signal-caller Jacoby Brissett was taken by the team in the third round two years later. But before we touch on Brissett, let’s backtrack.
New England Patriots’ Jacoby Brissett Needs to Be as Ready as Anyone
It’s Week One of the 2008 NFL season. The New England Patriots are coming off the only 16-0 regular season in history. After setting the single-season record for touchdown passes, quarterback Tom Brady looks to pick up where he left off against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Unfortunately, Brady went down awkwardly in the first quarter after a hit by Bernard Pollard and did not return. Post-game medical screenings revealed a torn ACL. Seven minutes and 33 seconds after Brady’s season started, it abruptly ended.
Before his current suspension was confirmed, the 2008 season was the only time Brady had failed to start a game since 2001. The Patriots still finished 11-5 that year, but missed the playoffs after being edged by the Miami Dolphins in the standings.
This time around, the Patriots are prepared to be without Brady. Garoppolo is set to man the helm in Brady’s absence, and has been the talk of training camp, but as we learned in 2008, one play can change a season’s entire outlook. Injury can strike any of the 22 men in play at any time. That’s where Jacoby Brissett comes in.
An Unexpected Selection
Though the Patriots sometimes make questionable draft-night decisions, the selections are generally made to fill a need on the depth chart. After drafting Brissett 91st overall and opting not to sign a veteran backup, the former Wolfpack quarterback will be second in line when Garoppolo and company start the season at Arizona in three weeks. And his importance goes far beyond holding the clipboard on the sideline.
If chance thrusts Brissett into the starting role, the team believes he has what it takes to succeed. He sees the field well and stands up to pressure up front. His footwork is solid and his big frame (6-4, 235) allows him to shake off hits and extend plays from the pocket. The young quarterback struggles with the deep ball, but is very comfortable throwing in the ten to twenty yard range. Brissett’s knack for fitting the ball in tight windows fits well with what New England does from week to week.
Brissett’s football smarts and athletic ability are evident. In addition, he possesses a bit of the X factor. Playing in the competitive ACC in college, he shined in prime-time games against powerhouse teams like Clemson and Florida State. Brissett has also shown the ability to get better and gain confidence as the game goes on. He is poised when speaking with the media, a trait heavily emphasized by Patriots’ upper management.
An Important Player
Since training camp began, Garoppolo has certainly been the hot topic. Brissett took a healthy amount of practice reps this summer, but his preseason playing time has been limited. Still, he has shown off the traits that prompted Belichick to select him in the third round back in April. In a post-practice interview on August 23rd, the head coach was asked about the focus on the quarterback position going into the season. His response was unsurprisingly brief. “All three quarterbacks are extremely important.”
In the case that Garoppolo goes down, or plays his way out of the starting role, Brissett needs to be ready. However, the Patriots offense is one of the most complex in the game. Over the course of time, stars from other teams came to New England and couldn’t make the opening day roster.
Despite these inevitable obstacles, Brissett has responded well to everything thrown at him so far. He has held the third quarterback job through the summer, and his coaches show no signs of that changing. The Patriots hope the rookie’s first year is an uneventful one, but if disaster strikes, he will need to step up. Brissett’s Patriot-like makeup and ability to rise to the occasion give the Patriots confidence in him if the Garoppolo experiment fails.