Friday, July 28, 2017

Reasons Abound Why Garoppolo Is Here To Stay

No matter the circumstance or the venue, the New England Patriots let their actions - or lack thereof - do their talking for them.

At the annual NFL Draft in Philadelphia this past April, many-a-quarterback-needy-team's fans watched in abject horror as their powers-that-be gave up prime draft capital to snag college quarterbacks - which is always a crap shoot - while New England stood pat with the hottest commodity in the quarterback market up for bids and no picks in the first two rounds...

...while the capital given up by the Texans, Chiefs and Bears would have likely been a decent start in satisfying the Patriots' demands for compensation for backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Houston gave up two first rounders to Cleveland to move up 13 spots to grab Clemson signal caller DeShaun Watson while the Chiefs gave up two firsts and a third to Buffalo to move up 17 spots to take Patrick Mahomes.  Chicago, despite their fans' outcry, wasn't nearly as aggressive with their booty, swapping a third and a fourth rounder to move up one spot to grab Mitchell Trubisky.

Last we had heard rumors about the price tag on Jimmy Clipboard, it would have taken a first rounder and some additional picks to pry him away from Foxborough - so the fact that all three of those teams, all of whom have a good relationship with the Patriots and have generated deals with them in the recent past, had to settle for untested college kids rather than a tenured backup with top-shelf professional training tells us one thing:

The Patriots don't want to deal Garoppolo, no matter the price.

And why should they?  In Garoppolo, they have a ready-made heir to Tom Brady already under contract, and while Brady is firm in his resolve to play well into his 40's, all it will take is one significant injury and without a quarterback to fall back on, the Patriots' championship aspirations take a momentous hit - and history is replete with examples.

For instance, when Trent Green went down in the 1999 preseason, what would the Rams have done without Kurt Warner?  How about in 1971 when Roger Staubach replaced an ineffective Craig Morton in Dallas? Jim Plunkett for Dan Pastorini in 1980?  Jeff Hostettler for Phil Simms in 1990?  Trent Dilfer for Tony Banks in 2000?  All of those teams went on to win championships with their backups.

Of course, how can Patriots' fans forget a guy named Tom Brady coming off the bench in 2001 to lead the Patriots to their first title?

But if you want a more recent example of what can happen if a team doesn't plan properly for injury, all one has to do is to look at what happened to the Oakland Raiders last season, when Derek Carr went down in week 16 with a broken fibula and all they had to fall back on was Matt McGloin and Connor Cook, who combined for two touchdowns and four interceptions as Oakland lost their regular season finale... the same time losing the AFC West and a chance at homefield advantage, then went to Houston as a wild card and got thumped by a Texans team that had Brock Osweiller at quarterback.  If the Raiders had actually employed a decent backup - McGloin had been a career clipboard holder and Cook was a rookie - they might have had the advantage over every other AFC team, including New England.

As has been said numerous times, Jimmy Garoppolo may be the best backup in the NFL, and it is obvious that his value to the forward thinking Patriots as an insurance policy against an aging Brady is worth more than a couple of draft picks or future considerations.

The Patriots have no holes in their lineup to speak of, and their depth is better than just about anyone else's in the league, barring perhaps at defensive end and at offensive guard, and now that the offseason is over, the options that the Patriots have in replacing incumbent talent with a college kid are narrow indeed, no matter the position.

Will how he performs in camp make any difference? Not necessarily, as Garoppolo has proven time and again that he is a "Gamer", meaning that he performs much better in game situations than he does in practices, and even with five interceptions in two days of camp, Garoppolo tells the truth

His explanation for the phenomenon?  He takes more chances in practice.

"You always try to do the right thing in practice" Garoppolo stated after Friday's practice in which he was picked off three times. "But practice is also that time, especially in training camp, where you give a guy an opportunity that maybe you wouldn't in the regular season."

"It's a time to gain trust in your teammates and give guys an opportunity." he continued, "A jump ball, for example, or a back shoulder, both of those are difficult catches.  You just try to learn your teammates the best you can right now."

Makes sense, in a "Patriots' Way" kind of way - and he's thrown plenty of picks in camp the past three years, but when he got the opportunity to get on the field when it counted, he was nearly flawless, going 43 of 63 for 502 yards and four touchdowns without ever throwing an interception, racking up a 2-0 record while filling in for Brady to start the 2016 season.

He is a polished passer with his eyes glued to his feet, meaning that his arm is cocked and ready to fire because his feet are always underneath him, balancing the throwing motion and follow through, resulting in a compact delivery with no wasted motion and a lightning-quick, snap release not seen in the league since Dan Marino retired.

All of that said and true, none of it means that Garoppolo is the second coming of Marino - or Brady, for that matter - it just illustrates the tools that he has to work with, tools that belong in a rhythm offense that grinds out first downs and eats clock.

So with Garoppolo entering his contract year as a somewhat proven commodity with a limited body of work to evaluate from, added to the fact that Brady is soon to be on the wrong side of 40, the Patriots will be forced to make a decision between now and the start of the 2018 league year next March as to what they are going to do with the Northern Illinois product...

...but one thing is for certain, and that is that the fate of the franchise lies in what they decide to do with Garoppolo going forward - and even if they have to absorb an exorbitant cap hit for a year or two to keep him around, in the long run it will be well worth it.