Habib: Onward and upward as Jacoby Brissett shows he's a starting-caliber backup to Tua

Hal Habib
Palm Beach Post

MIAMI GARDENS — How long is it likely to take? How long before an NFL coach throws his hands up over his quarterback play and wonders how it is he’s supposed to work with this? How long before a general manager asks what he was thinking when he failed to reel in a player who instead was signed relatively cheap by the Dolphins?

We’re talking about Jacoby Brissett, a player easily lost in all the attention paid to Tua Tagovailoa.

We’re talking about a quarterback who isn’t a starter even though he’s better than some NFL quarterbacks who are.

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No, Brissett shouldn’t be starting here over Tagovailoa. Of course there is no quarterback controversy brewing in Miami. It is possible to recognize Brissett for who he is without disparaging Tagovailoa for who he is.

It also is possible to appreciate that the Dolphins can win with Tagovailoa, but they also can win should Tagovailoa get hurt and the offense is in Brissett’s hands. The franchise that had Earl Morrall, Don Strock and Matt Moore once again can rest comfortably in its insurance plan at QB.

Jacoby Brissett calls signals for the Dolphins offense during last Saturday's game against the Falcons.

All this has been evident not just via Brissett’s near-flawless performances in two exhibitions — he was, after all, picking apart a lot of backups — but more so his day in, day out execution throughout training camp.

It hasn’t necessarily lifted Brissett’s confidence. His confidence didn’t need lifting.

“I know what I’m capable of,” Brissett said Wednesday. “I know who I am. I think that’s all that really matters, right?”

‘Getting better as I get older'

From the outside looking in, it’s the best Brissett has looked. Even Brissett himself doesn’t argue with the suggestion.

“I definitely think I’m getting better as I get older,” he said. “Understand more what I’m doing, being around good guys that’s catching the ball, giving me time to make accurate throws. At this point it’s hard to tell but I definitely think I’m ascending forward. I guess that’s the way to say it.”

Pardon the mixed metaphor, but Brissett at age 28 does appear to be moving upward and onward. This preseason, his accuracy is nearly off the charts, completing 77.7 percent of his throws with a passer rating of 139.81. Of course the sample size is tiny, but compared to his career rating of 84.1, his growth is undeniable.

Once there was Tom Brady blocking his path to starting. Then Andrew Luck. Then Philip Rivers. Now, Tagovailoa. Brissett was drafted in the third round by New England in 2016, traded to Indianapolis a year later to start in place of Luck, then reacquired the starting job in 2019 after Luck retired. If Tagovailoa stays healthy this season, it would mark the first time in Brissett’s career he would have gone two consecutive seasons without a start.

Brissett had to know the score when he agreed to join the Dolphins in free agency, for the team-friendly sum of $5 million over just this season.

“It was a mixture of everything,” he said of his priorities when choosing a team. “It’s so many things that play a part in it. And this was the best situation. I’m happy with my decision. I enjoy being here.”

Back home in South Florida

Here, after all, is home. He attended Dwyer High before landing at Florida and then N.C. State. Was the allure a chance to play in front of old friends and family?

“I guess you could say a little bit of it,” Brissett said. He laughed. “The taxes.” There is no state income tax. There is chemistry with Tagovailoa.

“We have a good room,” Brissett said. “Me, Tua, Reid (Sinnett), George (Godsey). And I think we all feed off each other.”

That, in turn, has allowed Brissett to raise his game.

“I definitely think I’m getting better as far as knowing where guys are, with learning the offense and being able to anticipate spots where people will be at.”

Maybe he’ll get to show it this season. Maybe not.

The certainty: Some team is going to regret not calling his number.

Sunday's game

Dolphins at Bengals

4 p.m.

TV: CBS, NFL Network