Patriots: Garrett Gilbert returns to New England after 6-year absence

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Garrett Gilbert #3 of Orlando Apollos looks to pass against the Atlanta Legends during the first quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Garrett Gilbert #3 of Orlando Apollos looks to pass against the Atlanta Legends during the first quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images) /

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert is one again a New  England Patriot, after having been cut by them in 2015.

The New England Patriots have welcomed back a former employee, having re-signed a quarterback with a Super Bowl ring from their glory days. Unfortunately, the quarterback in question is not Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo.

Instead, Garrett Gilbert is returning to Foxborough.

Who, you ask? Gilbert is an ideal third-string quarterback, having been a practice squad understudy for Tom Brady (hence, the Super Bowl ring), Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Dak Prescott, and even Cam Newton in his Carolina incarnation.

He was the leading passer in the defunct Alliance of American Football, and quarterback guru John Dorsey liked him enough to pick him up for the Browns. Let’s do a quick sidetrack to Dorsey for a moment.

The veteran football executive is an interesting fellow, having had an influence in the drafting of Aaron Rodgers in his early front office days with the Green Bay Packers. In Kansas City, he dug himself a hole after using too many draft picks and spending too much money on quarterbacks, including Alex Smith, who made the Pro Bowl three times.

But he also had the gall to sign Nick Foles, who won a Super Bowl after he left, as Patriots fans may recall. Nonetheless, the coup de grace was trading up to get a system quarterback from Texas Tech who had a big arm and big stats. However, everyone knows that Big 12 quarterback stats are untrustworthy because the defense is nonexistent in that conference. That was regarded as a terrible decision, the wise heads at Kansas City figured, and that led to his dismissal and banishment to Cleveland.

That kid quarterback was Patrick Mahomes, of course. Maybe it wasn’t quite such a stupid decision after all.

OK, back to Gilbert.

The QB played his high school football for the Lake Travis Cavaliers, the same high school that Mayfield attended. Gilbert began his college career as a Texas Longhorn but could not hang onto the job and transferred to Southern Methodist University.

He had the size and arm strength, but threw too many interceptions. He didn’t get that fixed until his senior year at SMU. However, the point is, he eventually did improve and had a reasonably good senior year (21:7 TD/INT ratio with 66% completion percentage).

The Rams drafted him in the sixth round back in 2014, but cut him, trying to sneak him onto their practice squad. However, the Patriots picked him up instead. Wherever Gilbert went after that, the starting quarterback ahead of him seemed to enjoy perfect health, so he never got the chance to play. Finally he got his chance in the AAF, where he was the top quarterback, leading the Orlando Apollos to a 7-1 record.

He landed in Dallas last year when the Cowboys lost Dak Prescott for the year after suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

Gilbert had his shot when backup Andy Dalton suffered a concussion, and nearly pulled off the upset against the Pittsburgh Steelers. At the time, the Steelers were 7-0 and atop their game. All in all, it was a very impressive performance and the numbers do not tell the full story. The Cowboys led most of the game before falling 24-19 as the Steelers rallied for 15 fourth-quarter points. Gilbert managed the game well, but contributed an interception under pressure in the fateful fourth quarter. He went 21-of-38 for 243 yards and one touchdown, and the national media was fairly impressed, expecting a Steelers’ slaughter.

Gilbert is 30 years old, but as they say: it’s not the age, but the mileage. And he has remarkably low mileage for a quarterback in his eighth season. This is a good move for the Patriots. He will keep Brian Hoyer on his toes at minimum, and he can chuck the pigskin in case of an emergency involving Mac Jones.