INDIANAPOLIS —Andrew Luck's uncertain status with the 2017 season opener against the Los Angeles Rams right around the corner brought about a solid — and completely unexpected — addition to the Indianapolis Colts' roster by general manager Chris Ballard.
On Sept. 2, 2017 — eight days before the start of the season — Ballard was able to swing a trade with the New England Patriots, who sent reserve quarterback Jacoby Brissett to Indy in exchange for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
The move would certainly pay dividends for the Colts, as the second-year signal caller would see action in all 16 games, showing his durability and adaptability by starting the final 15 contests of 2017, all while learning a new offense on the fly.
"This guy here (Ballard) talked to my friend Bill (Belichick) in New England and brought in a heck of a young quarterback (Jacoby Brissett)," team owner Jim Irsay said in his end-of-the-year press conference. "He really is a guy who didn't even have a chance to learn our offense. Got thrown in there and really did some special things.
Here's a review of the play of the Colts' quarterbacks in 2017.The Brissett Bunch
Brissett, upon arriving from New England, immediately showed his leadership ability, physical talent and high football IQ in earning the starting quarterback role by Week 2 of the Colts season.
Brissett, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last season — serving as the understudy to Tom Brady and backup Jimmy Garoppolo and even running offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' offense for a couple games during his rookie year — hit the ground running and learned along the way after making the move to Indianapolis.
Brissett would throw his first NFL touchdown pass, a 61-yard connection with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, in the Colts' 31-28 Week 3 victory against the Cleveland Browns, Indy's first win of the season.
The quarterback's strongest overall performance of the year came in Week 9 at Houston. Brissett completed 20-of-30 passes for 308 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a single-game career-best 122.6 passer rating. The highlight was his 80-yard touchdown to Hilton, also marking his longest career pass.
Brissett added four rushing touchdowns in 2017, which is tied for the second most in franchise history by a quarterback in a single year behind Luck's five rushing touchdows in 2012.
It was a whirlwind year for the 24-year-old quarterback out of North Carolina State — one in which he would connect on 276-of-469 (59 percent) of his passes for 3,098 yards with 13 touchdowns to seven interceptions — but one in which he earned trust from his teammates and coaches and learned how to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
"A lot of ups and downs," Brissett admitted the day after the regular season finale. "Very exciting year; got a lot of experience that I can use in the future and I'm looking forward to that."Wait for Luck
Luck appeared to be on track to join the team at some point during the 2017 season, but after experiencing some pain in his surgically-repaired right shoulder, the Colts' franchise quarterback's rehab hit a major detour.
On Nov. 2, after returning to the practice field for a couple weeks in a very limited role, Luck was shut down for good and placed on Injured Reserve to begin a more intense rehab regimen to get his shoulder back to 100 percent for the following season.
Shortly after the IR designation, Luck traveled to the Netherlands to focus on rehab, strength training and soft tissue work with a specific trainer he had worked with previously. He arrived back in Indianapolis shortly before the New Year and has continued his focus on getting ready for the 2018 season.
"We're preparing to throw a football, if that makes sense," Luck said about his progress late last month. "I'm sort of (on) a progression to get to that point, and a lot of it still has to do with me and getting my strength back to a better level."
Ballard is among many who are eager to see the continuing results of Luck's rehab process.
"As for Andrew, we're just going to continue down the path," Ballard said. "I mean, we are in a good place, the kid's in a good place, and we'll start throwing here soon. I'm not putting an exact date on it, but we'll start throwing soon and that's going to tell us a lot."Other notes
Scott Tolzien, an unrestricted free agent pickup from the Green Bay Packers in 2016, served as the backup to Brissett in 2017 after being supplanted for the Week 2 start. The Colts stuck with Tolzien as their starter throughout the offseason and through camp and the preseason, but after throwing two pick sixes Week 1 against the Rams, they decided to give Brissett a shot, and Tolzien wouldn't see the field the rest of the season.
The Colts on Dec. 27 also signed quarterback Brad Kaaya to the 53-man roster off the Detroit Lions practice squad.
Kaaya — 6-4, 215 pounds — has spent time on the Lions' active roster and practice squad as well as the Carolina Panthers' active roster for the first six weeks of the 2017 season. He has not seen game action since originally being selected by the Lions in the sixth round (215th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Rookie Phillip Walker, meanwhile, spent the entire 2017 season on the Colts' practice squad. In four preseason games in Indy, Walker completed 17-of-39 passes for 147 yards with one touchdown and one interception apiece.Number to remember
4: Brissett connected on four touchdown passes for 60-plus yards in 2017, falling just one shy of the great Johnny Unitas' franchise record of five set back in 1960.
2017 Colts Review:
• Defensive Linemen
• Running Backs
• Inside Linebackers
• Tight Ends
• Outside Linebackers
• Wide Receivers
• Offensive Linemen
• Special Teamers
QUARTERBACKS - 2017 Review