The regular season is less than 40 days away and the Cleveland Browns still have plenty to figure out, particularly at the quarterback position.
Three-time Pro Bowler Deshaun Watson, who the team paid $230 million during the offseason as part of a trade to bring him over from the Houston Texans, will miss the first six games of the year after he was suspended for multiple violations of the NFL’s player conduct policy.
That punishment could change within the next 48 hours if league commissioner Roger Goodell decides to appeal the decision of an independent arbiter, a move that would position Goodell as judge, jury and executioner in Watson’s case and would probably lead to a longer suspension. However, if that doesn’t happen, the Browns’ lead role under center is likely to fall to backup Jacoby Brissett, who proclaimed himself ready to meet the challenge when he spoke to the media on Tuesday, August 2, in the aftermath of the Watson ruling.
“Since I’ve been in this league, it’s been the next man up,” Brissett said, per Jake Trotter of ESPN. “You gotta be ready whenever your number is called.”
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Browns Must Commit to Brissett Soon or Move in Different Direction
The Browns may be calling Brissett’s number, for the moment, out of a lack of options — but that may not always be the case.
Watson will be allowed to practice with the team through the remainder of camp and participate in preseason games, despite his suspension. While Watson needs reps with the first-team offense for his own sake, Brissett needs them more as he also joined the Cleveland roster this offseason. Browns’ head coach Kevin Stefanski has indicated that Brissett will get the lion’s share of that action now that the franchise knows how long Watson will be absent, and that said absence will be significant.
“[That’s] extremely important, obviously, because those are the guys that will be with us,” Brissett said of practicing with the rest of the starting offensive players.
However, there is a chance that the Browns could pivot away from Brissett to a different option under center, especially if Goodell moves to take control of Watson’s punishment and extend it beyond six games.
Trotter noted on Monday that Cleveland may contemplate dealing with the San Francisco 49ers for an experienced veteran of whom they no longer have any need.
Brissett Speaks Out on NFL’s Suspension of Watson
As for the ultimate support of Watson as Cleveland’s starter, nothing has changed. That will remain true whether Brissett takes the reins, Garoppolo is brought in to do so, or some other quarterback ends up receiving the majority of snaps under center.
Team owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam made that fact clear in an official statement released after Watson’s suspension, which has drawn heavy criticism over the last 24 hours.
Throughout this process, Deshaun and his representatives have abided by the newly created and agreed upon process for the NFLPA and the NFL to defer to the objective Judge Sue L. Robinson to comprehensively review all information and make a fair decision.
We respect Judge Robinson’s decision, and at the same time, empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process. We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him.
Robinson pointed out in her ruling that Watson specifically lacked public remorse for any of his actions, which contributed to her decision.
Brissett, too, came out in Watson’s corner on Tuesday, saying that he did not read Robinson’s decision and has no plans to do so.
“I feel that is Deshaun’s business,” Brissett said, “and I would like to stay out of that.”