With Joe Burrow out for the season, Cincinnati Bengals fans feared the worst. But backup quarterback Jake Browning is emerging as a hero, stepping out of the shadow of a superhero.
After a shaky start to the season with an ailing Joe Burrow, the Cincinnati Bengals stabilized and were in the playoff race in the AFC North.
But then came the shock in week 11 in the 34:20 loss against the Baltimore Ravens: another injury to the quarterback. End of the season for Burrow.
The team strategy was designed around him, and hardly anyone still believed that anything could be achieved in this difficult division without Burrow.
Especially as the replacement quarterback Jake Browning is an absolute “no-name”. But this thought seems to be a fallacy.
In week 12 there was a narrow 10:16 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here Browning showed his previously unknown talent in the NFL. 227 passing yards, one touchdown, one interception and a QB rating of 96.2, which is impressive under the circumstances
But after the last matchday at the latest, Bengals fans are convinced: the playoff dream is still alive with Browning! In a thrilling game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Bengal Tigers won 34:31 in overtime, thanks in part to a monster performance by Burrow’s replacement.
354 passing yards, one TD, no INT and a rating of 115.5, wow! Browning played courageously, but also calmly. No sign of nervousness or a hint of being overwhelmed.
The 27-year-old immediately took responsibility and led the team to its current 6-6 record. Anything is still possible in the division. But who is Browning actually?
School nerd and record holder
Back in high school, Jacob Christopher Browning amazed everyone. He finished his school career with a perfect 1.0 and played outstanding football on the side.
He broke one record after another for Folsom High School. In 46 games, he made almost 1,200 of his 1,700 attempts. In the process, he amassed an incredible 16,800 passing yards and 229 touchdowns. The intelligent throwing machine broke all records in California. The 229 TDs even broke the national record held by Maty Mauk.
Jake Browning under the Monday night lights:
354 passing yards
1 passing TD
1 rushing TD
First win as an NFL starter
– NFL (@NFL) December 5, 2023
He received the “Gatorade Footballer of the Year” award multiple times. An award for the best high school player in the country.
In college, he transferred to the University of Washington. In addition to playing for the Huskies, he studied business administration at the Foster School of Business. The Washington Huskies are currently in the playoffs and even have a Heisman Trophy candidate in Michael Penix Jr.
Difficult NFL start
Started off well for the Huskies, too. He was the first freshman to start at quarterback for Washington in a season opener. 14 games and 43 touchdowns later, he led them to their first conference title in over 16 years. In his time, he also became the university’s all-time passing leader.
But then came the reality check. Browning was productive, looked mature and reflective, but his lack of mobility and below-average athleticism sent him rushing through the 2019 NFL Draft, to the surprise of many. A time when explosive QBs were popular.
While Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones or Dwayne Haskins found NFL teams, Browning remained undrafted. He then signed for the Minnesota Vikings practice squad and learned behind Kirk Cousins. For two years.
In 2021, the Vikings released him and a move to Cincinnati followed. Another two years passed and Browning never made the squad, only being on the scout team.
Why was Jake Browning so unknown?
Now the rocket launch.
Last offseason in training camp, he beat out rookie Trevor Siemian, who was already starting for the Denver Broncos, and earned the back-up job behind superstar Joe Burrow.
After his injury, Browning can now finally show what he proved early in his life: his amazing talent.
He had been learning behind others for a long time, even though he already had the perfect credentials himself.