BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Jacoby Brissett didn’t need any reminders, subtle or otherwise.
For months, Brissett has known that his atypical, somewhat awkward gig as Cleveland’s No. 1 quarterback had a shelf life of 11 games, set to end once Deshaun Watson became eligible to return from suspension.
Brissett has only one more scheduled start — Sunday against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.
No need to tell him.
“You guys gotta stop saying that last start stuff,” he said to reporters Wednesday, softening his comment with a familiar smile.
It would be understandable if Brissett were upset. After all, the affable 29-year-old may be having his best NFL season, one that began with him choking back tears following an emotional win at Carolina in the season opener.
He has done everything the Browns could have asked — and more. But beyond playing at a high level (his 90.7 rating is a career-best), Brissett has provided steadying leadership for a Cleveland team which seems to be deficient in that department.
“Jacoby’s been amazing for us,” said star running back Nick Chubb. “He’s a great person overall and a very good player. He’s done a lot of great things here. I love him. I love playing beside him.
“I know this last game he’s going to give his all for us.”
He’s never not done that.
Brissett understood what he was going into when he joined Cleveland as a free agent in March, one day after the Browns shocked the league by trading for Watson and giving him a fully guaranteed $230 million contract despite sexual allegations brought against the former Houston QB by two dozen women.
Brissett had no illusions about his role. He simply embraced it along the challenge of holding Watson’s spot while trying to keep the Browns (3-7) playoff contenders.
“I signed up for this. I knew what I was getting myself into,” he said. “I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task. I didn’t sign up for easy. I wasn’t brought here for easy. And I knew I was the right person for it, and I still believe that I am.
“I think I’ve shown that. So, yeah, excited for this one.”
In a way, Brissett’s final start will bring him full circle.
He started his career in 2016 with New England as one of Brady’s backups. A raw rookie, Brissett did everything he could to learn from the eventual seven-time Super Bowl winner, never imagining his seventh season would overlap with Brady’s 23rd.
“The best to ever do it, playing-wise, teammate-wise,” Brissett said. “You know just his love and passion for the game, his understanding of football and his competitive nature. There’s just so many things I could say about him.”
To a lesser degree, the Browns feel the same about Brissett, who passed for a season-high 324 yards and three touchdowns last week in a loss to Buffalo.
Brissett had two other potential TD passes dropped. But afterward, he didn’t dwell on any mistakes, only pledging to be better next time. It’s why Browns players, from rookies to veterans, have gravitated to him.
“He’s been solid with his leadership and the way he communicates with the team,” said linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who has bonded with Brissett as a next-locker neighbor. “He’s able to get them together and to not only talk about football, but talk about the bigger picture of this team and this program and he’s able to convey his messages in a great way.”
While Brissett is grateful for the praise, he finds it amusing. It’s as if people expected him to act or play differently.
“I don’t think I should be commended on doing my job and doing what I’m supposed to do and what I told myself and everybody else that I was going to do,” he said. “I’m doing my job.”
Brissett’s future beyond Sunday is unclear. He respectfully declined to comment on whether he wants to stay with the Browns.
“I don’t know what’s ahead,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be around this league for a long time to know that a lot of crazy things happen. So I haven’t really thought about the future yet and I honestly don’t want to right now, because of how much this week means to me.”
Cleveland has a franchise quarterback, and it’s not him.
Not that he needed to be told.
“I’m aware,” he said.
NOTES: Hjalte Froholdt, who moved into the starting center spot when Ethan Pocic sustained a knee injury Sunday, missed practice with an illness. The Browns signed veteran center Greg Mancz on Tuesday. … CB Greg Newsome II remains in concussion protocol and didn’t practice. … DEs Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, WR Amari Cooper and TE David Njoku were rested.