Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Brissett Perfect Fit For Patriots' Conceptual Offensive Scheme

"The staple of the Erhardt-Perkins offense is employing a quarterback whose best attribute is intelligence.  Brady has shown that you don't have to be an elite athlete to make the offense work, you just have to know the offense inside and out, know where everybody is on both sides of the line of scrimmage and to be able to deliver precision strikes in the intermediate passing game, allowing the receivers to work down the field after the catch. 
Brady does that better than anyone who ever played the game, so it's patently unfair to expect the same out of a second year man who has more nick-names than career passing attempts - but why wouldn't we expect Garoppolo to come in and show the same kind of efficiency that he showed in college and in his brief appearances in the NFL?" - Foxborough Free Press, May 13, 2015
Nearly a full calendar year has passed since we first entertained the thought of Jimmy Garoppolo under center, leading the New England Patriots through the first quarter of their season - and now, thanks to a 2-1 decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, we find ourselves pondering the same thing once again.

Last Monday, the court reinstated Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his alleged involvement in whatever the sad and wrong "DeflateGate" saga is all about, with the panel of judges simultaneously confirming that the powers awarded him in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations are indeed universal, his decisions unilateral and, indeed, unfortunate.

Such power eventually leads to revolt and change, but it isn't going to happen soon enough to save Brady from having to serve the suspension.

Third-year backup Jimmy Garoppolo will take center stage for New England while Brady is out, but being void of a semblance of a body of work, we don't really know what to expect from the guy when the Sunday night lights flicker to life in Arizona against the Cardinals when the season begins - but there seems to be two schools of thought among fans and experts alike.

For the milk drinkers, the thought is that Garoppolo will be used as more of a game manager, not unlike what Matt Cassell experienced initially in 2008 when Brady tore his ACL - only this time Brady will be coming back, so we may not see a true body of work from him...

...but the whiskey crowd wants to see the young fire-pisser jump in feet first from the very first possession, staking a claim as a legitimate professional quarterback.

The latter scenario seems to be the one gaining steam, as a decent performance by Garoppolo nets the coaching staff and Patriots' fans a little more solace in moving on from Brady in a few years - either that or it gives defacto General Manager Bill Belichick a solid gold trade chip moving into Jimmy's contract season.

Either way, Garoppolo is auditioning for something, which is a win in Belichick's book, and hopefully four wins on the scoreboard.

In the wake of Belichick selecting North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft, it's looking more like Garoppolo is auditioning to be a very valuable bargaining chip in the 2017 offseason, which is just about protocol for the Patriots with their quarterback depth, as they tend to select an understudy to Brady every three drafts.

Indeed, since Brady took over at quarterback a couple of games into the 2001 season, and former starter Drew Bledsoe was shipped off to Buffalo the following offseason, Belichick has selected a quarterback in the draft with regularity. In 2002 it was Rohan Davey, followed by Kliff Kingsbury the following season,..

Matt Cassel in 2005, Kevin O'Connell in 2008, Ryan Mallett in 2011 and Garoppolo in 2014 - none of whom besides Garoppolo was ever seriously considered anything more than a clipboard, though Cassel made a big enough splash taking over for an injured Brady in 2008 to earn himself a career in the NFL.

The only other signal caller who made any sort of mark in the league was Brian Hoyer who was signed as an undrafted free agent by Belichick in 2009, serving as Brady's primary backup for three seasons before being released in favor of Mallett, gaining spot starts in Arizona, Cleveland and Houston in the seasons since.

In every instance, Brady's backup became fodder for fans and media as trade bait, with Cassel going to the Chiefs for the 34th overall pick in the 2009 draft - which the Patriots used on safety Patrick Chung - and then Mallett was dealt to the Houston Texans for a late-round selection in 2014,, being replaced as the clipboard holder to Brady by Garoppolo.

Now, Garoppolo is the subject of much of the same banter in the wake of Belichick spending 3rd round draft capital on Brissett, who was initially projected as a late-round prospect.

On paper, the gap between the two seems to be enormous, with Jimmy G. a far more polished pro-style quarterback than Brissett, though the rookie out of North Carolina State has some pretty heavy names as character and professional references in former Patriots' coaches Bill Parcells and Charlie Weis, who both think the kid is going to be a star.

But not yet.  He has some bad habits that he picked up from some brutal beatings he took in college - throwing off of his back foot being the worst - while Garoppolo exhibits pristine foot work and a solid pocket presence.

Brissett has sloth-like "speed" on the run and has a tendency to vacate the pocket due to phantom pressure, but is elusive in a Brady-like manner and has an absolute rocket launcher for an arm - which doesn't translate to a successful deep ball, more often than not overthrowing his receivers by a wide margin on vertical routes if pulling out the heavy artillery...

...all of which makes Brissett sound more and more like a young Brady in a physical sense
, though it remains to be seen if the kid has the cool and calm that the Greatest of All Time has under pressure, which is something that comes with experience and not necessarily something that can be taught.

All of that said, what can we expect to see in the next twelve months with the Patriots' quarterback situation?

Certainly, Garoppolo's audition is going to go a long ways in answering that question - but make no mistake, Garoppolo has all of the tools to be successful.  Cerebral, he understands the nuances of the Erhardt-Perkins scheme and recognizes coverages well enough to put his receivers in position to gain a mismatch. He is much more physically gifted than Brady and moves well in the pocket to avoid contact, though he is light years behind the greatest of all time in feel for the pressure and instincts.

He has small hands, but a snap release unseen since Dan Marino retired, and an NFL Caliber arm that he sometimes has a little too much confidence in, as he will try to "Brady" a ball, fitting it into a tight window surrounded by bad guys - Brady has an absolute laser in the intermediate set so long as he has the pocket to step into his throws...

...while Garoppolo has a compact wrister that looks effortless but gets to the receiver in a hurry and Brissett has a full overhead motion that generates a lot of heat, but also puts great touch on bucket drops, which he has to do in order to complete the long toss.  Like Brady, you give this kid a clean pocket and room to step up, he will pick defenses apart in the short to intermediate zones and loft home run balls over the top.

He obviously has much to learn about the professional game and, in particular, the Erhardt-Perkins offense and it's conceptual base, but he couldn't have landed in a better spot to do just that.  At least for this season, he will be able to sit and learn from the masterful Brady and maybe pick up a few pointers on footwork from Garoppolo as well.

Things will probably be drastically different at this time next year, as Garoppolo may well translate into a high draft pick for the Patriots, but that essentially depends on Brissett, and whether he has the brains and the brawn to handle Belichick's complicated concepts.

But if Parcells and Weis have given the young man their seal of approval already, and with Belichick and his staff thinking highly enough of him to spend top draft capital to bring him aboard, the Brady-esque 21 year old will probably become Brady's understudy and, perhaps, eventual successor.

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