Jake, Not From State Farm, Insures Bengals Have Life

When Joe Burrow went down with a season-ending injury two weeks ago, conventional wisdom insisted that the Cincinnati Bengals’ chances to return to the post-season were all but over.  And less than two years removed from a near-victory in the Super Bowl on the Los Angeles Rams’ home field, they would be in the inglorious position of rebuilding, at least mentally.  And last week, when backup Jake Browning was handed the reins, he was ranked 35th out of 32 starting fantasy quarterbacks (yes, two backups who were potentially going to see time were ranked ahead of him).

Well, this is anything but a year where conventional wisdom has borne fruit, and last night, Browning shattered the ceiling that it may have had at one time.

And as ESPN.com’s Ben Baby wrote, Browning knew all along the so-called pundits had him all wrong.

I haven’t played a lot of football, but it’s not like I’m not used to winning,” Browning said. “I’ve won a lot of games in my career. None of them have been in the NFL until today, which is obviously noteworthy. I’ve won a lot of football games in my life.”

And he did at least have some favorable stat lines on his resume prior to last night to back up his bravado, as Pro Football Network’s Owain Jones reminded:

After an excellent high school career at Folsom High School in Folsom, California, Browning committed to Washington as a four-star recruit.  Browning built on his freshman campaign with a superb sophomore season. In 2016, he threw for 3,430 yards, 43 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Those 43 TDs are still a school record. The Huskies finished the season 12-2, winning the Pac-12. Washington lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoff that season.  Browning ended his career at Washington playing 53 games, only missing one game his entire college career. He also broke multiple school and conference records.  With 94 touchdowns over his entire college career, Browning leads Washington in all-time passing touchdowns. His six-touchdown games in 2016 against Oregon and Cal also top the all-time single-game record for the Huskies. Browning’s 12,296 career passing yards is also still a school record.

All of that, of course, pales in comparison to what he accomplished last night, as Baby related:

In the second start of his career, he put together a historic outing in a 34-31 overtime victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Playing in place of an injured Joe Burrow, Browning became the first undrafted player in the common era to throw for more than 350 passing yards and complete 85% of his passes.

His final line: 32-of-37 passing, 354 yards and two total touchdowns, an effort that helped the Bengals snap a three-game losing streak. 

The Bengals beat a division leader on the road, and while they’re still on the outside looking in in a clusterfu-k of an AFC at 6-6, they are a mere game behind the three 7-5 wild card teams.  One, the Indianapolis Colts, is already being led by their own overachieving backup, Gardner Minshew.  Ironically, Minshew most recently in a similar role with the Jaguars, and they could use him now, as starter Trevor Lawrence left last night’s game with an injury of his own. 

And as Baby further reminds, the Bengals do have a favorable series of matchups down the stretch.  Four of Cincinnati’s remaining opponents have top quarterbacks facing injuries.

No, none are the Jets, who started off this whole circus of season-ending injuries four snaps into the season, when Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles.  They’re still looking for a capable backup.  Today, Tim Boyle, Rodgers’ hand-picked backup with a similar record of practice squad history as Browning had, was mercifully released, being less than fondly remembered as someone who couldn’t get a pass downfield except into the arms of a Miami Dolphin defender who promptly returned it 99 yards for a pick-six.

It only reinforces how feeble and feckless Jets management was, and how astute the Bengals were to take a chance on someone like Browning.  And with talented receivers like JaMarr Chase and Tee Higgins, among others, there’s no question they’ve got a shot.  Bet Garrett Wilson wish he had someone like Browning on his side.

Browning provides yet another great story to watch, especially for those who no longer have to even consider the Jets worthy of relevance like moi.  He could be a one-week flash in the pan, or he could be a hero.

Regardless, he’s worthy an investment, at least of time.  Most good insurance policies are.

Courage…

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