CLEVELAND — This is strange for us. Traditionally, when a Browns QB relinquishes his starting job it’s in between seasons, or it’s during the season because they were too bad to wait for the end of the season and we just need it to stop.
What’s so unique about this particular changing of the guard is that for once we have a starting Browns QB stepping down amicably, as planned, with no hard feelings between the player and the fans. It’s a new situation for us and it’s pretty clear we’re having a hard time processing it.
See, normally when our QB loses his starting job, we fans are ripping on him for coming up short and letting us down. But this time our reaction is quite different. There is a lot of Jacoby Brissett love out there right now.
The outpouring of affection online is everywhere, and I get it. The guy came into a difficult situation and showed leadership, poise and maturity.
That being said, I do feel like some people might be going a little overboard. After all, we’re not watching Cal Ripken retire here. We’re watching a likable, journeyman quarterback hand over the reigns of a mediocre team after going 4-7 through a relatively soft schedule.
And now you’re like: “But Mike, it wasn’t Jacoby’s fault! The defense stinks!”
Largely true. But the defense didn’t prevent Jacoby from making big plays in big moments. The defense didn’t cause him to throw just 12 touchdowns in 11 games. Two things can be true at once: and two aspects of a football team can underperform simultaneously.
“But Mike, that’s not fair. I saw a stat that said Brissett had the 5th highest QBR ranking in the league.”
To which I say, “That’s great. How many points does my team get for that? What? None? Oh.”
To be clear, I’m not ragging on what Brissett did this season. He’s been exactly what the locker room needed. I’m just not pretending like his performance on the field was more than what we thought it would be when we signed him to his temporary, interim position as our placeholder QB.
In truth, there were no surprises, historically speaking. Prior to this season Brissett had a lifetime starting record of 14-23 for a 37% win rate. This season he won 36% of his games, proving he’s nothing if not consistent. We knew what we were getting and he came as advertised.
So why are we Browns fans, who are notoriously not the most charitable when it comes to critiquing our outgoing quarterbacks, treating Brissett with such reverence on his way out the door, despite the lackluster results of his tenure, with many people going so far as to suggest that he should maintain the starting job despite Watson’s return? A little history:
In 2005 the Browns starting quarterback was eventual Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer. (It didn’t happen when he was with us). So what happened to him after he also started that season by going 4 and 7, just like Jacoby did this year? Did we praise Dilfer for his grit? No, we tore him apart and replaced him with Charlie Frye. And when we did, to the best of my knowledge there was no outpouring of affection for Trent Dilfer’s effort during those first 11 games, and none was thanking him with overt displays of appreciation on MySpace and Friendster. 2005.
Instead we were all just like, “Get that bum out of here! He stinks! Bring out Akron Boy! Maybe that’ll work! Onto the next one!”
So what’s my point in all of this? It’s that as sports fans, we have a tendency to react emotionally rather than logically. Everything is situational. And Jacoby Brissett benefited from two very key factors:
1- Low expectations based on his past body of work.
2- Not being Deshawn Watson.
And I do think that second factor is quite important. I’ve spoken with plenty of Browns fans who have expressed that they prefer to support a team led by a quarterback who has more virtue than talent, rather than the other way around.
The reason we’re lionizing a quarterback who just went 4 and 7 is because much of the fanbase is still understandably conflicted or downright depressed about the person who is about to replace him.
That’s why Jacoby is getting a fond farewell instead of the Trent Dilfer treatment. Because try as we might, as humans it’s impossible to separate our emotions from our analytics.
All that said, I’d still like to add my voice to the choir in saying sincere thanks to you, J.B. You did what was asked of you and you did it with class. Your reward, in addition to the 5 million dollars the Browns paid you this year, (1.22 million per win) is the contract you’ll get next year to start for some other team that is in complete crisis mode and requires a steady presence and competent game management while they try to get their act together.
And wherever that road takes you, be it to Houston, or Tampa or, let’s face it, probably Jacksonville, we wish you good fortune and competent offensive protection during your journey. Thanks for your service, and Go Browns.