What if Jimmy Garoppolo pulls a Tom Brady?
Something that hasn’t been talked about much since Tom Brady’s suspension became official is the possibility that Jimmy Garoppolo will be good. Really good.
For a decade and a half, the New England Patriots have been piloted by Brady. He has become the face of the organization, the one constant in an ever-evolving organization. Brady’s longevity has birthed and sustained an entire generation of fans (this 20-year-old writer included).
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Of course, Brady was not handed this role. If it weren’t for Mo Lewis clocking Drew Bledsoe back in September of 2001, we likely would have never seen Brady in a starting role. Brady spent his rookie year of 2000 holding the clipboard, much like Garoppolo has done in the past two seasons.
Entering the 2016 season, there is a parallel between Brady and Garoppolo that simply cannot be ignored: a young quarterback taking over the reins in September because the incumbent is sidelined for whatever reason.
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Is that where the story stops? Or will Garoppolo continue to emulate Brady’s career path? Only time will tell. But for today’s purposes, we are going to envision a scenario in which Garoppolo plays well in the first four weeks of 2016. Like, really well. What would that look like?
For starters, Garoppolo would navigate the Patriots’ offense through the Arizona desert, shielding the heated Chandler Jones-led pass rush. It would be a HUGE win for the Patriots to escape the Cardinals with a win; it would be even bigger for Garoppolo.
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With a win in his first start under his belt, Garoppolo could approach the Patriots’ ensuing three-game homestand with confidence.
Week 2 would see Garoppolo outduel his passing peer Ryan Tannehill in the Patriots’ home opener. By this point, the greater NFL community will have taken notice of Garoppolo shepherding the Patriots to a 2-0 start.
Then the following week, Garoppolo would benefit from J.J. Watt’s possible absence, taking advantage of a lesser Houston Texans front seven and using twin-tower tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett to lead the Pats to 3-0.
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If things go his way in Week 4, Garoppolo will torch the Buffalo Bills with his arms and his legs, doing his best Tyrod Taylor impression. A fourth consecutive win in as many games will have the entire NFL ecosystem debating about Brady and Garoppolo.
DISCLAIMER: These are not predictions. They serve to illustrate a scenario in which New England becomes the center of an October quarterback controversy.
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So let’s say that at least a few of those four wins came on the heels of Garoppolo’s coming of age; that Garoppolo carries a favorable touchdown-to-interception ratio, posts at least one 300-yard performance, and displays mobility that the Patriots haven’t seen at quarterback in recent memory. What happens then? Who starts against the Cleveland Browns in Week 5?
In July, it’s hard to picture this. The easy answer is that Brady will start. But it may be a really hard decision for the Patriots to make, between a streaking Garoppolo (representative of the future) and a rusty Brady (representative of the past).
Remember, back in 2001 the Patriots stuck with Brady when Bledsoe regained full health. They could very well find themselves in a similar position 15 years later.
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Put yourself in Bill Belichick’s shoes in this scenario. What would you do?