Jacoby Brissett emerging as the winner in a lost season for Colts

INDIANAPOLIS -- The foundation of what the Indianapolis Colts were about to experience was laid out with a simple phone call between the new quarterback and the team's position coach on Sept. 2.

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was acquired from the New England Patriots that day, was talking to position coach Brian Schottenheimer when he told him, "I'll be there tonight, looking forward to getting started."

Schottenheimer had planned to spend his final free Saturday attending the Purdue football game against Louisville with New Orleans quarterback (and former Boilermaker) Drew Brees.

Brissett's plane to Indianapolis ended up being delayed that day, but first thing the next morning he was meeting with Schottenheimer to start the process of learning his new team's system.

"His work ethic is top-notch, that's what [everybody] talked about," Schottenheimer said. "The guy is going to wear you out with his work ethic. ... There's a confidence in himself. I think that's what you notice about a young player. He's very confident in his ability and his ability to go out there and help us win."

Brissett's work ethic, maturity and all-around talent are what helped make him the Colts' starting quarterback just two weeks after they made the move to acquire him out of necessity, due to Andrew Luck's health status and a lack of faith in Scott Tolzien to be the starter.

Brissett has brought stability to the quarterback position, providing the Colts with insurance and possible trade value for the future, depending on what happens with Luck's shoulder in 2018. Brissett has thrown for 2,172 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions, while completing 60.9 percent of his pass attempts.

"He's one of, if not the biggest, reasons why Indy has been able to be in the games that they've been in," said one NFL personnel official who has watched Brissett play this season. "Has he been less than perfect? Yes. Does he hold the ball too much at times? Yes, but you expect that out of a player still grasping the offense. Has he made same bad throws that has hurt his team? Yes, but he's nowhere near the top of the list when it comes to their problems."

Brissett was put behind the eight ball right from the start. He didn't have offseason workouts, minicamp, training camp or preseason games to learn the offense. All he had was the couch in Schottenheimer's office, the film room, the other quarterbacks, practice time and his confidence to help him grasp the system as quickly as possible.

That's not an ideal situation for any player at any position. It's really not an ideal situation for a second-year player who had only one start in his career on a team with a wobbly offensive line and lacks any true playmakers outside of receiver T.Y. Hilton.

"He's already proven what he can do by coming into a situation where he was set up to fail," ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said. "These are situations where kids typically fail and they look awful because you're not supposed to be able to have success where you have no offseason, no training camp, no familiarity with the coaching staff. But he's shown his development. It's not supposed to happen that way. Everything was stacked against him. He has proven to be someone that obviously has a very high football IQ, very good mental toughness, nice ability to be able to develop relationships with players he had no previous background with."

Another reason Brissett has been able to have success in an offense that he is still learning is because of his athleticism and arm strength. Riddick, a former NFL front office official, noted that Brissett's arm strength is better than Luck's on certain throws. That's high praise when you consider Luck was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. It can't go without saying that opponents have scored 24 points off Brissett's five interceptions. Three of the interceptions -- against Arizona, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh -- eventually cost the Colts the games.

"He's a young player, and for him to fall and stumble sometimes is all part of the process," Schottenheimer said. "He's learning on the job and he's learning quickly. That's something the good ones are able to say: 'I learned this, but I have to do this better next time.' He does that."

"Jacoby is the winner in all this. He's a starting quarterback in this league. If I'm a quarterback-needy team, I'm studying this kid like crazy. If I'm Chris Ballard, you have to keep him." Louis Riddick

Colts general manager Chris Ballard has consistently praised Brissett. He credits the quarterback's ability to adapt so quickly to him being around former NFL coach Bill Parcells and having an opportunity to learn under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady during his rookie season in New England.

"Any player that has been exposed to that organization is better than any player who has not," Riddick said. "I don't care who it would be. They do it different; they hold people to a higher standard. He went through that program with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. It's invaluable, and you can't quantify how important that is because of the effect it's had on him. Not every place is like that, and we see that over and over again. He's learned things from there that he will never get anywhere else simply by being there, simply by being talked to, scrutinized, corrected, molded for the short amount of time he was in New England."

Ballard will have a significant commodity on his hands if Brissett, who is in the NFL's concussion protocol, continues his progression. Luck's health remains the biggest question mark inside the organization. He's still not recovered from January right shoulder surgery, and there's no timetable for his return. How Luck progresses will likely play a significant factor in Brissett's future.

If the Colts don't believe Luck will be ready for the start of next season, Brissett can easily continue to start. If Luck, who signed a $140 million contract in the summer of 2016, is giving every indication that he'll be ready to return to his starting job, Ballard can gauge Brissett's trade value with quarterback-starved teams around the league. Brissett has the advantage over the quarterbacks who will enter next year's draft because he could end up with 15 straight NFL starts by the end of the season, and he's only 23 years old.

"Jacoby is the winner in all this," Riddick said. "He's a starting quarterback in this league. If I'm a quarterback-needy team, I'm studying this kid like crazy. If I'm Chris Ballard, you have to keep him. There's no way in hell that I would trade him under any circumstance. At the very least, he's my No. 2 until somebody makes me an offer that knocks my socks off and I know Andrew is coming back healthy. Jacoby has put himself in that kind of position because of what he's done so far."