Darius Leonard Backs Jacoby Brissett as Colts QB Amid Philip Rivers Rumors

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2020

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett looks for a receiver during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard is a believer in quarterback Jacoby Brissett and his ability to be the team's starter moving forward. 

Appearing on Ian Rapoport's RapSheet + Friends podcast (h/t NFL Network's Kevin Patra) on Tuesday, Leonard said he hadn't considered the possibility of the Colts signing a veteran quarterback like Philip Rivers to replace Brissett:

"No. I mean, why would I do something like that? No. I believe in Jacoby. And Jacoby is a pretty good quarterback and showed that early in the season when he had everyone healthy. You can look at any quarterback, and if your receivers go down, of course, your numbers are going to go down. But when he had everybody, he went 5-2. You can look at any other quarterback. I take Tom Brady, for instance, this year he didn't have [Rob Gronkowski], he didn't have the big-time receivers this year, so his numbers went down. So, a lot of people don't give [Brissett] enough credit to what type of quarterback he really is, they just see the numbers he put up at the end of the season, but they don't see the numbers he did with the receivers he did [have]. I don't feel like the NFL, and people outside the NFL, give him enough respect."

Brissett was thrust into a starting role last season following the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck. In 15 starts, Brissett went 7-8 and completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 2,942 yards, a career-high 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions, while also rushing for 228 yards and four scores.

Since the Colts seemingly have a good enough roster to be a playoff team, there may be a sense of urgency to make a change under center in order to take advantage of a strong supporting cast.

Rapoport reported last month that the Colts are the "most likely" landing spot for Rivers and that "many, many people" expect Rivers to end up in Indy:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From NFL Now: The #Colts appear to make the most sense for former #Chargers QB Philip Rivers, while the #Raiders loom as an interesting option, as well. https://t.co/mfuxklPFf5

After 16 seasons together, the Chargers announced this offseason that they were parting ways with Rivers and would not re-sign him in free agency. As a result, the 38-year-old eight-time Pro Bowler is in search of a new team.

While Rivers has never reached a Super Bowl, he has arguably put together a Hall of Fame resume. He is 123-101 in his career as a starter and has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 59,271 yards (sixth all-time), 397 touchdowns (sixth all-time) and 198 interceptions.

After throwing 32 touchdowns and being named to the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year in 2018, Rivers struggled a bit last season with 4,615 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, which was one off his career high.

While Rivers is more of a risk-taker than Brissett and is prone to turnovers, it can be argued that he is better equipped to take advantage of weapons such as wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Marlon Mack.

Brissett started 15 of the 16 games he appeared in during the 2017 season, which Luck missed due to injury. He went just 4-11 and completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven picks.

After sitting behind Luck in 2018, Brissett was clearly a better quarterback in 2019, especially early in the campaign.

Things unraveled a bit after Brissett suffered a knee injury and was without key offensive players such as Hilton, Mack and tight end Eric Ebron for multiple games.

Brissett is signed through the 2020 season and set to make nearly $16 million, so the Colts clearly have some level of belief in him, but even if the ultimate goal is for him to remain the starter in 2020 and beyond, it wouldn't hurt to bring in some competition to push him.