In the spring of 2016 the Dolphins were doing their due diligence for the NFL draft and, frankly, there wasn’t much urgency to add a quarterback.
The organization’s ruling trio of head coach Adam Gase, executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier had Ryan Tannehill as their starter and Matt Moore as the backup, and after much work was done to gauge those two for the near future, the team was sold this was the duo with whom to ride or die.
Up the road in Jupiter, Florida, meanwhile, Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells was working the phones.
He had a quarterback that was flying under the radar that he simply loved.
Parcells met Jacoby Brissett when the quarterback played at Dwyer High School in West Palm Beach. And Parcells took more than a casual interest in the young man because like so many in recent generations, Brissett had no father in his life and sorely needed a male role model.
Parcells decided he’d be that role model. He also decided he’d use his extensive football coaching abilities and connections to make Brissett better.
(Like the time Parcells enlisted friend and former NFL quarterback guru Dan Henning to take Brissett out to a local field and drill him on two-minute work. The idea was for Brissett to throw seven deep to intermediate passes to receivers in a simulated drive down the field. Of course, it was raining. And the field was muddy. And a soaked and muddied Parcells was snapping the soaked and muddied football to a soaked and muddied Brissett, who then had to throw on time and with accuracy despite being tired by the drill’s quick pace, tough elements and high standards.)
Anyway, Parcells called some of “his guys” to alert them that he thought Brissett was going to be a very good NFL quarterback.
“It’s not like I haven’t seen a few good quarterbacks,” Parcells said this week. “Jacoby’s a big, strong, kid. He’s got a good arm. He’s always had those things. He’s got good work habits. He’s willing to train. He does everything that you would need someone to do. He’s 100 percent committed. He doesn’t have any distractions. He has very good personal discipline. He keeps everything separate from football. He handles his affairs.
“He’s just a really wonderful young man. I love him. He’s like my own kid. I love him.”
Parcells talked to New Orleans coach Sean Payton about Brissett. He talked to New England coach Bill Belichick about Brissett. And this ...
“I talked to two or three guys,” Parcells said. “I talked to guys who would listen and trust my judgment, I think. Don’t forget, I’m just a guy who’s out of football at that time. I’m done. Now, they’ve got a whole couple of years of college film on this guy so they’re going to form their own opinion.
“What they don’t know that I do know is the intangibles. That’s what I did know. I knew what his work ethic was going to be. I knew what kind of personal habits he has. I knew what kind of commitment he makes.”
Parcells calls scouts on the Dolphins “friends” and has a good relationship with Grier dating back decades. He cannot say definitively one way or another if he talked to Grier about Brissett but leaves open the possibility he did.
“Listen, I’ve known Chris since he was 13,” Parcells said. “I like him a lot. You know, I remember talking to Chris about Teddy Bridgewater a little bit but I don’t know if I told him about Jacoby or not, I’m not sure. Maybe I did, but I’m just not sure.”
Perhaps Grier never heard from Parcells on Brissett. But I did. Because Parcells told me about him, too.
Parcells went on and on about this player I’d frankly never seen play. But I watched a couple of his games at North Carolina State and it was attention grabbing.
Parcells told me I could not write about Brissett before the draft, but I went about as far as I could to hint of his draft rise in the week prior to that draft right here -- without divulging the player’s name.
Meanwhile I told the Dolphins about Jacoby Brissett. And I told Parcells I did it.
“Sure, I don’t blame you,” he said.
I passed the information to Gase. And when I circled back to make sure the Dolphins were onto Brissett, Gase said he knew Grier and Parcells are close and he was sure Grier was very aware of Brissett. I told other people in the organization about Brissett as well.
Later on, after the draft, I wrote about Brissett by name.
Well, the 2016 draft came and went. The Dolphins drafted running back Kenyan Drake and wide receiver Leonte Carroo in the third round. Drake went No. 73 overall. Carroo went No. 86 overall.
Jacoby Brissett went later in the third round. He went No. 91 overall. To the New England Patriots.
Belichick, who had Tom Brady, listened to his former boss Parcells and picked Brissett.
Fast forward four seasons and the Miami Dolphins are in dire need of a promising young quarterback. And Brissett is developing into exactly that for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts acquired Brissett from New England in 2017 in exchange for former first-round pick Phillip Dorsett. Indy added Brissett ostensibly to serve as the backup for Andrew Luck.
But because Luck was injury-prone during his time in Indianapolis, Brissett started 15 games in 2017. He threw 13 touchdowns passes and 7 interceptions on a 4-12 team.
And when Luck unexpectedly retired in September, citing ongoing pain from the beatings he took playing his position, the Colts had a choice: Trade for a starting quarterback or hand the reins to Brissett.
The decision was apparently an easy one.
“He had a lot of the traits we look for,” Indianapolis coach Frank Reich said this week. “Toughness, physical and mental toughness. He had the leadership you need from that position. He’s an elite leader. I mean, this is his team.
“The guys know this guy has authentic, deep leadership qualities that you would stack up against anybody in any industry. This guy is a phenomenal leader. And physically as a player he can make all the throws, he’s got a very good command of our offense. I feel like he’s getting better every week with every game that we play.
“He’s already playing good football but there’s so much more to go and I’m really happy with the job he’s done this year so far.”
Brissett’s leadership is apparently every bit as awesome as Reich says because Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who was around Brissett at New England, loves it also.
“That’s the first thing from my standpoint that you could see right off the bat,” Flores said. “Guys gravitate to him. That’s the one thing that stood out to me. I really like Jacoby. I think – not I think, but when I was there – we had some injuries where he had to start a game early and I thought he went in and did a really good job.
“You could see the leadership and you could see the ability to handle the offense and operate an offense at a young age. He’s got a lot of the QB qualities you are looking for from an operation, leadership, guys rally around him – he’s got a lot of those qualities. I’m not surprised that he’s gone in there and done a really nice job for them.”
Brissett has completed 153 of 236 passes (64.8 completion percentage) for 1,649 yards with 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions this season.
Said another way, the guy who was part of the quarterback room in New England with Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo is out-producing both those guys. Brady has thrown 14 touchdowns and 5 interceptions while Garoppolo has thrown 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Brissett’s QB rating is better than 22 other quarterbacks including Brady’s, Phillip Rivers’, Carson Wentz’s, and Matt Ryan’s.
And the thing is Brissett, only 26 years old, has not reached his ceiling.
“That’s what’s exciting,” Reich said. “We’re 5-3 right now and he’s a big reason for the success that we’ve had and us playing good football at times. And we all need to be better and he can get better just like everybody else on our team and on our coaching staff. We all can get better. But it’s going to be fun to find out what the ceiling is.”
Parcells believes Brissett is in the right spot to make his attempt at a higher performance plateau. And he is certain his time in New England also helped.
“I think it was a good thing for Jacoby to go to New England, to sit there and watch a real pro practice. To watch a real pro’s habits. To have Tom help coach him a little bit,” Parcells said. “How could that hurt? It can’t hurt. He’s probably the beneficiary of some of that.
“But with all that, he needs a few reminders now.”
One of those reminders came in 2017, Brissett’s second NFL season and first with the Colts.
“Two years ago, he gets thrown in there,” Parcells said. “Andrew Luck is hurt. The Colts really aren’t very good, OK? And, you know, he’s in the game struggling. He’s what their team is. He’s just getting underway himself.
“But I always tell my guys this, and you’ve heard me say this, ‘You’re not going to find out if you can play quarterback in the NFL until you just got beat 31-10, you threw three interceptions, everybody knows it was your fault that you lost, the fans are booing you, the press is on your [butt], the coaches are looking at you sideways and maybe some of your own players are looking at you sideways.
“And now it’s Wednesday and you’ve got to get back in the huddle and you’ve got to prove to everybody you can lead the team.
“So go back two years, the Colts play the Jaguars, they get killed, he gets sacked 10 times. I mean, he gets his [butt] kicked, OK? I don’t call him after the game. Wednesday at 5:30 in the morning I call him. I don’t even say hello, I just say, ‘Well it’s Wednesday, what do we gotta do?’
“You know what he says? ‘Get back in the huddle, coach.’ That’s it. That’s all I needed to hear.”