By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Let me be clear: It would have been great had the New England Patriots had been able to successfully, peacefully, and naturally transition from Tom Brady to Jimmy Garoppolo. Think about it, the Patriots would have secured themselves (an unheard of) 30-year window of competent play from the most important position in all of sports.
Let me be even clearer here, though: Such a plan was never, ever, ever realistic.
Not when Tom Brady was executing everything — and I mean everything — at a level no other quarterback had been able to at that age or point in their career. Not when Garoppolo got his first taste of being a starting quarterback during Brady’s four-game suspension in 2016 and didn’t completely piss it away. And not when both Brady and Garoppolo were represented by the same agent, and with that agent looking out for the best interests of both clients.
In no world was Garoppolo going to hang around until he was 30 years old to get his first starting opportunity. Nor was Brady going to willingly relinquish control of the team he turned from a complete sadsack into one of the league’s winningest franchises.
But trying to turn the fallout of this situation — one that allowed to Jimmy Garoppolo sign of the richest contracts in league history to quarterback the San Francisco 49ers and left Brady unthreatened as the face of the Patriots franchise — into anything even resembling a legitimate loss for the Patriots is the stuff of a championship-drunk city that should know better.
Being realistic for just a moment, if the Patriots get… oh, I don’t know, maybe even one… defensive stop in their Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles half a year ago, we’re sitting here talking about Brady’s sixth championship victory.
We’re talking about the 40-year-old Brady throwing for over 500 yards in the Super Bowl. And that’s without his No. 1 target for the entire season in Julian Edelman and with the never-quite-elite-enough Brandin Cooks knocked out in the middle of the game. If you’re looking for people to blame for that loss, Tom Brady is lodged somewhere between Justin Timberlake and the dude sitting in last row of upper level 343 at U.S. Bank Stadium at the bottom of the list.
Even in a losing effort, The Kellerman Cliff that Brady has spent the last four years turning into a bigger joke than a Pittsburgh defense remains on the other side of the world right now. If it even exists.
There’s just been absolutely zero evidence that anything about Brady’s play is holding the Patriots back. This isn’t about holding players above the rest of the roster, either, but it absolutely could be if you wanted. There’s not an athlete that’s consistently performed above his ceiling as frequently and consistently as No. 12, and he happily belongs in that rarefied air.
And the idea that Garoppolo’s exit is or will negatively impact Brady’s on-field performance is nonsense of the highest degree.
In 11 games following the Garoppolo trade last year, Brady threw for 3,168 yards (288 yards per game), completed 65.2 percent of his passes, and totaled 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Patriots went 9-2 over that span.
Pace it out over a 16-game season and you’re talking about 4,608 yards, 35 touchdowns (and nine interceptions), and a 13-3 record. Based on last year’s league statistical leaderboards, such a pace would make Brady the league’s top passer in yards, yards per game, and touchdowns. His completion percentage would be the seventh-best in the league, and his turnover numbers would be around where they were last year, lodged in the top-third or so among qualified starters. So, if there’s a dramatic dip in those numbers compared to those when Garoppolo was here, I’m gonna need you to help me find it.
And if you instead choose to play the role of amateur psychologist and say Brady’s mindset is different without internal competition, I’m just going to assume that you’ve never watched this player in your entire life. Brady’s internal drive is something that few — in any sport, really — have and remains the same no matter the other names on the depth chart.
Treating Brady like a consolation prize of sorts — when he remains committed to the idea of playing for the next five years, at least if we’re to read into Instagram comments — is downright dumb. (And again, without any sort of proof that the cliff is coming for Brady, how can you do anything but believe in his methods thus far?) It’s especially stupid when you consider the fact that Garoppolo, for all his promise and early success, has yet to prove a damn thing when it truly matters, too.
(As a quick aside, let’s play a game: Quarterback A finished his season with a five-game run that featured 1,078 yards, a 56.7 completion percentage, 12.1 yards per completion, and eight touchdowns compared to three interceptions. His team went 4-1 over this stretch, but failed to make the playoffs. Quarterback B finished with 1,542 yards, a 67 completion percentage, 13.1 yards per completion, and six touchdowns with four interceptions. His team, though 5-0, also failed to make the playoffs. Quarterback B, as you may have guessed, is Jimmy Garoppolo with the 49ers last season. Quarterback A? Matt Cassel, in the final five games of a Brady-less 2008 season in Foxboro. Cassel parlayed what was a strong performance in a did-not-qualify season into a starting gig in Kansas City in 2009, and threw for 2900 yards and a 16-16 touchdown-interception split. And whether you want to accept it or not, Garoppolo is infinitely closer to Cassel than he is to Brady at this moment.)
Garoppolo can be The Guy. Hell, Bill Belichick clearly thinks that he can be. But now comes legitimate expectations for him to be exactly that. And if he’s going to compare to Brady, he’ll need to start piling up victories and accolades at a historic rate. And before he does that, he’ll have to have a stronger touchdown-turnover ration than the 1-1 everybody glosses over when fawning over him as the next big thing with longwinded profiles and should-have-been lessons in time-wasting in Foxboro.
This is a fact that now stares Garoppolo and his heavy contract in the face like an adult film star.
Another fact? Instead of a quarterback that’s put together a solid opening 26 quarters for a team that might be something or might be nothin’ at all, the Patriots are instead ‘stuck’ with the guy who could very well be the greatest NFL player of all time. In a conference that’s run through Gillette Stadium — or his team, at the very least — in nine of the last 12 seasons, no less.
What a shame.
In addition to being an unapologetic Tom Brady Honk, Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Follow and yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.