Jimmy Garoppolo, the young quarterback out of Eastern Illinois University was the second round draft choice in 2014 for the New England Patriots. When the New England Patriots made the selection on Draft Day, many believed that once the day finally came when Tom Brady retired that Jimmy G would be the heir to his throne. But if I know one thing about the Patriots organization it is that they will do what it takes to win if that means sitting the best quarterback of all-time for the former FCS Quarterback of the Year, then that is what they’ll do. Belichick and the Patriots know winning and losing, they don’t know fair and unfair.
We all know Brady’s story and how he won the starting job over Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe legitimately almost died after a vicious hit from New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, leaving Bledsoe with a few cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, and a good seat for Super Bowl 36 as he watching Tom Brady lead, what was Bledsoe’s team to the promised land. A feat that Bledsoe himself had yet to accomplish although he came close in 1996 where he brought the Patriots to the Super Bowl only to lose to the Packers and Brett Favre. It is worth noting that the Patriots in 1996, were not the perennial Super Bowl favorites we are accustomed to today and bringing that Patriots team to the Super Bowl was quite an accomplishment. So long story short, Bledsoe opened the door a crack for Mr. Brady and he ran with it, not actually because Tom Brady runs about as gracefully as a giraffe but he passed through it.
That was 16 years ago, when the Patriots decided to give up on a 29 year old Drew Bledsoe, who was the highest paid player in all of football at the time and give a sixth-round pick, a quarterback that couldn’t win his collegiate starting job at Michigan outright, the reins to the team and the beginning of a dynasty.
Tom Brady has iron-clad job security due to his performances on the field but also because without Brady there is a good chance that Bill Belichick didn’t remain the Patriots head coach much longer. I’m not saying that Belichick is indebted to Tom Brady but it definitely is in the back of Bill’s mind whenever he takes the field on Sundays. Brady has four Super Bowl wins and he has brought a winning culture to New England that hasn’t been seen before. So it is more than fair to say that the Patriots are 100% committed to Tom Brady until he decides to retire in 15 years. Although, the Patriots were just as committed to Drew Bledsoe back in 2001, when they made him the richest player in the NFL with a 10 year, $103 million contract. Robert Kraft said of Bledsoe after the historic signing that Drew has a chance to be remembered in New England like Ted Williams, Larry Bird and Bill Russell. All of whom played their entire career for just one team. Kraft was also quoted as saying, “I remember feeling sad when Bobby Orr left,” (The NHL Hall of Famer left Boston for Chicago late in his career) and went on to say, “I saw this as an opportunity to sign one of the great Patriots for the rest of his career.’’ Not only did Bledsoe have the money to seemingly ensure his starting job but at 29 years old, he owned every Patriots passing record worth having, he had made it to three Pro-Bowls, led the league in passing yards once and as I mentioned before he brought the Patriots to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1985. New England parted with all of that, when Bledsoe was only 29 years old and if his career path was similar to Brady’s, he would’ve just been entering his prime years. So why wouldn’t the Patriots explore the prospect of starting Garoppolo over a 39 year old Tom Brady? They wouldn’t, they couldn’t, it wouldn’t be fair to Tom Brady for all he has done for the organization.
Bledsoe said of Brady gaining the starting job, “I didn’t think it was fair”. That is the thing, Belichick and the Patriots don’t care about being fair, they care about winning and if they think Garoppolo puts them in the best position to win, then they’ll go with Garoppolo. Do I personally believe that Tom Brady finishes his career elsewhere? No chance, I would give it zero thought but if he were to swap teams I would find it pretty difficult to root against him. FS1 TV personality Colin Cowherd said he wouldn’t be surprised if Brady finished his career elsewhere. Other franchises have boasted some of the best quarterbacks of all-time only to give up on them in order to make room for somebody else who fills their shoes. The San Francisco 49ers let 37 year old quarterback and four-time Super Bowl Champion Joe Montana walk and they ran with Steve Young who went on to win a Super Bowl title of his own. The Packers were done with one-time Super Bowl Champion and three-time MVP Brett Favre’s retiring shenanigans and let Aaron Rodgers try the spotlight. Rodgers won a Super Bowl of his own along with two MVP awards and counting. And more recently the Indianapolis Colts chose to try their luck with Andrew Luck, letting the one-time Super Bowl Champion Peyton Manning trot into Denver and win another Super Bowl with a borderline superteam.
The biggest factor in this ‘debate’ is the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo has only played one game, but that one game didn’t come against the Cleveland Browns or the Los Angeles Rams. It came against one of the Super Bowl favorites in the form of the Arizona Cardinals, in a game that took place in Arizona and without Rob Gronkowski. Garoppolo had a 106.1 passer rating while completing 72.7% of his passes for 264 yards and a touchdown without an interception against the second best secondary in all of football behind the Denver Broncos according to Pro Football Focus. This game against the Cardinals was a game that most people were not even sure that Tom Brady himself could’ve won, so since Jimmy G was able to capture a win at the University of Phoenix Stadium does it improve his stock at all to win the starting job by week five?
I don’t think so, I played Devil’s Advocate on Three Point Stance earlier this week pleading the case to start Jimmy Garoppolo over Tom Brady come week five but Tom Brady’s case is different than the cases of Montana, Favre and Manning. Sure those three all had a little left in the tank before then hung it up for good but Tom Brady seems to get better each and every year. It’s the Curious Case of Tom Brady, it is as though he is playing like a 29 year old, except his body is 39 years old. Of course, we’ve all heard about the diet Brady puts himself through (he’s never eaten a strawberry, and his avocado ice cream for dessert just to mention a few) and that speaks to his dedication and sheer love for the game. Brady, is and always will be the best option under center for the New England Patriots, he brings a different level of understanding and energy to the Patriots offense. If Garoppolo were to go 4-0 with a passer rating above 100.0, then it would definitely be a more interesting debate but quarterback controversies can be poison to a team and their success. Brady, Belichick and company haven’t built this dynasty from the ground up just to give Garoppolo the starting position a few years earlier than anticipated, all just to gain a scouting edge on other teams (since the amount of available tape on Garoppolo versus Brady is monumental).
Garoppolo impressed me during week one’s action but not enough to even consider playing him over Tom Brady. The Patriots are Tom Brady’s team and they will go as far as he takes them. I think that the debate with more sustenance is if you’re Jimmy Garoppolo, do you play the waiting game to take over for Brady when/if he retires someday or move to an organization and situation that gives you the opportunity to play every week? Learning under Tom Brady obviously has its perks because when you’re learning from the best you can strive to be the best someday. Either way, Jimmy G and the Patriots have some complicated decisions ahead of them. If you’re the Patriots do you trade your future man under center or do you rush Brady out of the league in order to keep Garoppolo in Foxborough? The Broncos tried to play both sides last year and ended up losing their quarterback of the future, Brock Osweiler to the Houston Texans during free agency and losing their starting quarterback, Peyton Manning to retirement. Now Trevor Siemian makes the calls in Denver but I’m sure John Elway would take redo on how he handled the Osweiler-Manning case.
P.S- It will be interesting to see how the record books credit this year’s undefeated season, whether Brady or Garoppolo gets more recognition.
Cover Photo via Sports Net
GIFs via Champ Sports, NY Daily News, Make a GIF, Bleacher Report and Boston.com