When the NFL released its 2023 schedule, plenty of fans probably circled the Bengals' matchup with the Jaguars in Week 13. But few could've predicted that the game's quarterback duel would end up being Trevor Lawrence versus ... Jake Browning.
The Bengals, of course, lost Pro Bowl starter Joe Burrow to season-ending wrist surgery in November, cutting short an already-injury-riddled season for the NFL's highest-paid QB. But who, exactly, is Browning, the man tasked with replacing him under center? The man who surprisingly led Cincinnati to an overtime win over Lawrence and Co. on Monday night?
Here's everything you need to know:
Decorated student and recruit
Before Browning was an NFL QB, word is the California native scored a perfect 4.0 GPA at Folsom High School, where he broke state and national records for career touchdown passes (229) en route to a four-star recruiting tour that brought him to the University of Washington. While playing for the Huskies, Browning studied at the Foster School of Business.
Made history at Washington
Not content to rest on his high school stardom, Browning etched his name into the collegiate record books early and often for Washington, becoming the first true freshman to ever start a season opener at QB for the Huskies. A year later, with 43 TDs in 14 games, he guided UW to its first conference title in 16 years. He finished his college career as the school's all-time passing leader.
Learned behind Kirk Cousins
Despite his production, Browning got dinged in the pre-draft process for a perceived lack of NFL-caliber size or athleticism, going undrafted in 2019, the same year Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins went in the first round. He proceeded to sign with the Vikings, and he spent the next two seasons on and off Minnesota's practice squad, with Cousins firmly entrenched as QB1.
Beat out veteran backup in Cincinnati
Signed to the Bengals' practice squad in 2021 after his release from the Vikings, Browning spent his entire first two years in Cincinnati on the scout team. This summer, however, he outplayed journeyman Trevor Siemian, the former Broncos starter, to earn the team's No. 2 job behind Burrow. He threw the first pass of his NFL career during the Bengals' Week 1 loss to the Browns.