Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Jimmy Clipboard: The Pros And Cons Of Dealing Garoppolo

If obscure media reports are to be believed, the Jimmy Garoppolo-to-Cleveland rumors will be addressed this week at the NFL's Owner's meetings.

For a moment, let's assume that officials from both the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns will be in the same room as each other at least a couple of times, and that the subject of the Browns being seemingly incapable of drafting and developing their own franchise quarterback comes up over hors d'oeuvres, and that Patriots' defacto general manager Bill Belichick has had a few martinis.

Does Belichick even drink alcohol?  Only his house boy knows for sure, but let's flirt with a scenario where Belichick is half-crocked and the Browns officials approach him to broach the subject of him loosening his grip on Garoppolo long enough for the Browns to make a completely outrageous, typically overpaying scenario that would compensate the Patriots handsomely.

Is there such a scenario?

It is said that every man has his price, but when it comes to the well-being of the future of an entire franchise, can anyone in the league even begin to approach that number?  For the long-term sake of the Patriots, let's hope not.

Quarterbacks rarely come into the National Football League straight out of college and become the savior of a franchise - they must be groomed in a particular system to become successful - and the Browns haven't allowed the same system to remain in place in Cleveland for more than a couple of years, changing general managers and coaching staffs before they could ever gain any traction...

...the longest tenured head coach being former Patriots' defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel's four seasons, his longevity trumped by the fact that he employed four different offensive coordinators and started seven different quarterbacks in those four seasons.

That, more than anything else, is the reason that the Browns have been the doormat of the NFL since the modern version of the Browns entered the league as an expansion franchise in 1999.  That's a long time to suck and a harsh reality to Browns' fans that their front office is the issue, not giving one offensive system enough time to develop, which puts anyone under center in the perfect environment to fail.

In short, it really didn't matter who they brought in to quarterback the team, because they were destined to fail.

Conversely, take a look at Tom Brady and the Patriots.

An afterthought in the 2000 draft, Brady was able to show enough potential during training camp to become the third quarterback for New England behind Drew Bledsoe and Michael Bishop, then showed enough in the 2001 training camp to become Beldsoe's primary backup - and even when Bledsoe was almost killed by Mo Lewis and Brady took over, the team groomed him in an on-the-job scenario that at times was painful to watch...

...as evidenced by the fact that only once did the second-year man top the 300 yard plateau - in overtime, no less - and suffered through an erratic 2002 season before finally gaining some traction in 2003.  The rest, as they say, is history.

There are some serious doubts that Brady could have duplicated his success were circumstances any different, and that is important to remember when it comes to Garoppolo.  For instance, the stability of the coaching staff, including having the same offensive coordinator for the first five seasons in Foxborough, can not be overlooked, nor can the fact that Belichick kept the same philosophy for his offense throughout his formative years.

Peyton Manning, his brother Eli, Ben Roethlisberger, they all enjoyed the benefit of having a solid and consistent coaching staff to groom them into the position of franchise quarterback, but the best example for the scenario presenting itself to Belichick and the future of the Patriots is the way that Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers treated their turnover from Bret Favre to Aaron Rodgers.

Drafted in 2005, Rodgers learned the ropes of the Packers' system while watching Favre from the sidelines - and when Favre announced his retirement after the 2007 season, McCarthy was ready to move forward with Rodgers, but became instead embroiled in a controversy when Favre decided to unretire, assuming that he would be handed the starting job - but instead McCarthy offered him a backup role under Rodgers.

Of course, Favre wouldn't hear of it and he was promptly traded to the New York Jets - but the Favre mind-changing saga is the only thing about the scenario in Green Bay that wasn't amazingly similar to what is happening in New England at present with Garoppolo.

Just before the 2007 draft, the Packers engaged in discussions with the Oakland Raiders in regard to trading Rodgers in exchange for a wide receiver named Randy Moss - but on the second day of the draft the Raiders instead traded Moss to New England and Rodgers remained with Green Bay, signed a contract extension designed to pay him as a tenured backup the first couple of years, then as a starter once Favre had retired, which he eventually did.

Now, imagine what would have happened to the Packers had they been able to complete the trade for Moss and Rodgers ended up in Oakland - the Raiders most likely wouldn't have hit the skids in their Cleveland Browns-style quarterback merry-go-round and the Packers would have been stuck with the vastly overrated Matt Flynn, and for certain would not have won a Super Bowl with him at the helm.

Perhaps the way that the Packers dealt with Rodgers should serve as a blueprint for Garoppolo, who is entering his walk-year with New England, because the pieces are in place both in the coaching ranks and in the locker room for continued success in Foxborough, and Garoppolo has proven that he has a fine grasp of the scheme.

The criteria that exists in making a decision on Garoppolo is more than just salaries and X's and O's, however.

Sure, New England could offer Garoppolo a contract extension much like what the Packers paid to Rodgers - somewhere around $5 million a season to wait his turn, and then once Brady retires or is forced out due to father time catching up with him, kick in team options to pay him righteously for his patience - but what's more is to keep Garoppolo in the position to succeed and away from the failure sure to come if he is dealt to Cleveland.

That is not a certainty, especially given the money they've spent upgrading their offensive line, but history certainly suggests such an outcome, and if current head coach Hue Jackson is treated like all of the others before him, the chances of failure increase exponentially - and if the Patriots feel that strongly about Garoppolo and have his best interest at heart, at the very least they would want to make sure that his career takes a better path than going through Cleveland...

...no matter the compensation package, which would have to be over-the-top substantial for Belichick to consider moving the future of the franchise anyway, and there is no guarantee that the Browns' management is doing anything but wasting their time in chasing Jimmy Clipboard in the first place.

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