I published a post about the greatest NFL preseason performances of all time on Thursday, because I wanted to cherish forgotten players who played well in forgotten games. It was hard to put together, because players rarely assemble noteworthy stat lines in the preseason—most teams cycle between starters, backups, and third-stringers over the course of a game—and even when they do, nobody pays attention. The only site, more or less, that even keeps preseason stats is NFL.com.
On Thursday night, that post was completely ruined, because Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett had what I believe to be the greatest preseason performance in NFL history:
Brissett’s only previous notable NFL accomplishment was winning a game against Houston last year with an entirely different offensive plan than the one the Patriots use normally. That the Pats managed to win that game with just three days of practice is an all-time underappreciated Bill Belichick accomplishment, but didn’t tell us much about Brissett’s throwing capabilities.
But Thursday night, Brissett threw. He passed for 341 yards—8 yards off the best preseason performance I found, by Tony Romo in 2006. He threw four touchdown passes—tying the best preseason performance I found, by Brett Hundley in 2015. He also ran for a touchdown, giving him more total scores and yardage than any player in any game I found. Brissett led the Patriots on a drive that gave them the lead with 44 seconds left, but the Giants kicked a field goal as the clock expired to win 40-38.
What does this mean? Basically nothing. My previous post found that the greatest nights in preseason history were by guys like ex-Cowboys QB Stephen McGee, ex-Jets WR David Clowney, Washington RB Mack Brown, and other no-names. Basically, Brissett’s performance tells us that the Patriots were willing to let him play for an entire game to avoid injury to Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. He was throwing to receivers like Devin Lucien, Austin Carr, and running back D.J. Foster, all of whom are projected to be left off the Patriots’ 53-man roster by most prognosticators. This performance is arguably less impressive than gaudy stat lines of past years, because of a new rule that allows teams to keep a full 90-man roster through Week 4 of the preseason. Brissett wasn’t just torching the Giants’ backups, he was torching their third-stringers.
Brissett was already unlikely to be cut, so this wasn’t too important from a roster math perspective. And he was already unlikely to play during the regular season, so this really doesn’t mean much for the Patriots’ hopes in 2017. Last year, Brissett only played because of a suspension to Brady and an injury to Garoppolo; it’ll take an act of God and an act of Goodell to get him on the field this year.
But all of that has nothing to do with the magnificence of this throw:
Scrambling half-witted from an unblocked Giant, Brissett seemed to be desperately hurling the ball in the last instant he had enough balance to throw. But the pass was immaculate, floating with the perfect touch to Lucien over a defender.
Preseason football means nothing. Please, do not attempt to argue otherwise. But events like Brissett’s game are beautiful, strange football moments. The record book will say they never happened, but we know that they did.