INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We don’t know whether Scott Tolzien, the known commodity who’s in his second season in Indy and coming off a feeble performance against the Los Angeles Rams, or Jacoby Brissett, the unknown who’s been in town 13 days, has been handed the reins to the Indianapolis Colts offense for Sunday’s home opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
Despite Friday morning reports the Colts have decided to bench Tolzien and turn to Brissett – NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first tweeted the news, citing a league source – Chuck Pagano remained noncommittal. Sort of.
Media: Have you made a decision on your starting quarterback, Chuck?
Pagano: Uh, have not.
Follow-up: Have you made a decision, or do you just don’t want to announce the decision?
Pagano: We’re not ready to announce it yet.
That’s the cat-and-mouse game, the gamesmanship of the NFL. While no one should buy into Cardinals coach Bruce Arians spending much time game-planning for a Tolzien-led offense, it’s still better to keep the opposition wondering.
Everybody on the football side at the Colts’ Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center undoubtedly knows what’s going on. While Pagano and the players have refused to offer insight to practices that are closed to the media, it doesn’t take a football savant to realize whichever quarterback was named the starter Wednesday morning took the vast majority – if not all – of the repetitions with the first unit all week.
That much Pagano acknowledged.
He was asked, hypothetically, if Brissett was going to start after just seven practices, wouldn’t you want him to get every snap?
“Hypothetically you would love your starting quarterback, whoever that be, to get the lion’s share of reps,’’ Pagano said. “You’re exactly right.’’
So, who was that?
Pagano laughed. And moved on to the next topic.
The national report naming Brissett the starter was brought to his attention.
“I don’t listen or read or hear or follow rumors (or) informed sources,’’ Pagano said.
He also was asked about his comfort level if Brissett starts with so little practice time or time to digest the playbook.
“Whoever trots out there is going to play well. They’re ready,’’ Pagano said.
Starting different quarterbacks in the first two games of a season will be a Colts’ rarity. The last time was in 1992 when Mark Herrmann started the opener and beat the Cleveland Browns. He was released the next day and Jack Trudeau was under center game 2 against Houston.
Neither Brissett nor Tolzien was available in the locker room Friday during the period open to the media.
Wednesday, each showed his elusiveness.
“I’d love to (start), but that’s (Pagano’s) decision,’’ Tolzien said. “I’m a team guy, so whatever decision he makes I’ll roll with and I’m going to continue to be the best teammate I can be and best quarterback I can be.’’
From Brissett: “That’s coach’s decision . . . everybody wants to play, but at the end of the day, it’s coach’s decision. I think coach would . . . put (in) the player that would put us in the best position to win.’’
Tolzien did little to earn a second opportunity. In the 46-9 loss to the Rams, he passed for 128 yards and had both of his interceptions returned for touchdowns. His passer rating: 33.8.
The Colts have been lavish in their praise of Brissett since acquiring him 13 days ago in a trade with the Patriots that send 2015 first-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett to Foxboro. He has intriguing size – 6-4, 235 pounds – and athleticism. In his brief playing time against the Rams, he showed his arm strength with a 50-yard completion to Donte Moncrief that covered the distance in a hurry.
“He’s a big guy,’’ coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. “Has a real calmness in the pocket so he’s able to move around in the pocket and evade some of the rush. He gets out. He scrambles well. He’s got a strong arm.
“He’s been able to produce and score and lead drives and all those types of things.’’
The glaring negative is Brissett’s lack of experience with the offense. He was on the field for nine snaps against the Rams and wore a wristband with an abridged game plan designed solely for him.
That probably will be the case again Sunday against Arizona.
“These are all hypotheticals right now, certainly,’’ Chudzinski said. “You have to make some adjustments. He’s been here a week so getting to know him is as important as him getting to know the playbook.
“That’s a process that happens over time.’’
For Jacoby Brissett, apparently the time is now.