Borges: Makes no sense for Patriots to trade Jimmy Garoppolo
The amount of wasted breath and endless fulminations over the short-term future of Jimmy Garoppolo have been nearly as astounding as the Patriots’ 25-point comeback to win Super Bowl LI. What on earth are people thinking, assuming they’re thinking at all?
What the Pats will do with Garoppolo has been presented as if it’s some sort of Rubik’s Cube, baffling to the larger world and troubling to the Patriots’ guru of the gridiron, Bill Belichick. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the Trump administration keeps saying and then having to amend — there’s nothing to see here. In Garoppolo’s case, there really isn’t and never has been.
Belichick believes in Tom Brady and in the importance of the quarterback in today’s game. He does not believe in the wondrous power of kale chips and avocado ice cream. He believes in the inevitability of the calendar and the relentlessness of time. He does not believe anyone beats the clock.
There has never been any “decision” to make about Garoppolo beyond whether or not Belichick believes he can win with him. With the team he presently has and the competition he presently faces, he came to that conclusion last season. With a 40-year-old QB in front of him, albeit the greatest 40-year-old QB in NFL history, the future was clear.
Belichick is not, has not and was not considering trading Garoppolo with a 40-year-old QB in front of him and a 15-year-old, for all intents and purposes, behind him in untutored Jacoby Brissett. The only way that would change is insanity on the part of his opponents. If someone wants to trade two No. 1 picks for a guy who has started two games and couldn’t physically survive the second, well, only then does a question arise.
There will be no such question.
This was never like trading Matt Cassel, who everyone but Scott Pioli knew was far less than he appeared in 2008, when he led the Pats to an 11-5 mark after Brady suffered a season-opening knee injury. What Belichick understood then was that the five was more revealing than the 11. That team would have won 11 games even if Little Orphan Annie was the QB. The five games where it needed the QB to win all turned into losses.
Cassel was a seventh-round pick and a backup since high school. He was never accurate enough (as his 58.8 percent career completion rate points out) for the demands of today’s game. Pioli was desperate to put his own stamp on Kansas City and overpaid badly.
Garoppolo, on the other hand, has sat at the foot of the grand master of the Patriots offense for three seasons. He has gone 2-0 as a starter, which is too small a sample size to mean anything, but completed 67 percent (63-of-94) of his throws in his limited exposure to NFL defenses. Might he still be a mirage? Yes, and Belichick knows that, but he also knows the odds are against a 40-year-old QB even as fanatically fit and obsessed as Brady. So he was always going to do exactly what he has done — nothing.
Why anyone thought otherwise makes them a candidate for the Kyle Shanahan I’ve Got A Great Idea Let’s Go For 50 Points Award. If there is a Patriot Way, and Belichick has scoffed at that notion, it is that you don’t do anything you don’t have to do until you have to do it. Then leap.
If a team loses its mind just before the draft, might Belichick reconsider? He might, but I doubt it, because he understands if he does and Brady goes down or suddenly begins to act his age, his team’s future has been mortgaged.
There is nothing harder to find than a competent quarterback. Not great, just competent. Half the league doesn’t have even that. Fail to have one ready behind a 40-year-old starter when you have a team that figures to do no worse than 8-8 for a while, and you realize you will not be in position to find that next Brady in the draft any time soon.
Instead, you will wallow in the vast middle class, float among the teams that go 9-7, 7-9, 8-8. They don’t lose terribly but they also don’t win because their QB is not good enough. You become the Texans.
Being the Texans is better than being the Browns or the Jets, but that’s like comparing having a cavity filled with having a root canal. One is worse than the other, but neither is something you look forward to.
People seem to forget this is the same Belichick who carried four QBs on his roster in 2000, an unheard of decision but one that proved wise. He did it because he had concerns about starter Drew Bledsoe’s long-term future and wasn’t sure what the short-term future was. So he kept John Friesz, Michael Bishop and a skinny kid named Brady because the smart play in the short term was to do nothing. Wait and see.
Same is true in this case. Sure some team could lose its mind, but until someone does the smart play this time is the same. Stand pat, Pats.
And so Belichick always intended to.
If a year from now Brady is showing signs of either his arm or his mind unraveling, Belichick can move him. And don’t think he wouldn’t.
If he needs to retain Garoppolo he can franchise him, expensive though that would be. He could do it because the salary cap is now over $167 million and is sure to go up in 2018, and he could do it because if he has to unload Brady for it to make financial sense he has the cache to do it. It’s not like dumping Bernie Kosar in Cleveland when you have no pelts on the wall.
There no longer is any such thing as “salary cap jail” unless you want a lame excuse to unload a popular but aging player, which quite frankly could happen to a 40-year-old Brady just as easily as to a 26-year-old Garoppolo. Today, no team is a captive of the cap, most certainly not the Pats. So to do nothing in Garoppolo’s case now has always been the smart play, which is why it was always the play Belichick would run.
All the breathless “trade” talk was nonsense unless a team was like some caller on talk radio.
“Hey, Fellgah, Belichick should trade Jimmy for dem two No. 1s and a No. 2! Dats what dem teams will pay for Jimmy G. Guy is da next Brady, ya know? Come on Tony! Can’t ya see dat? All da teams want Jimmy G.”
That has never been the case, but let’s say for a moment it was. Then why would you trade him? If true, it’s like trading Aaron Rodgers or Steve Young. If Jimmy G is worth the price some claim, then he’s actually priceless.
Belichick is smart enough to know that’s not the case. There’s a price on everyone’s head in the NFL, including Brady and Garoppolo. But sometimes the wise play is to just sit on the ball until circumstances of someone forces your hand.
That’s something Belichick has always known and the Falcons forgot on Feb. 5. It’s why he has a new ring and they don’t.
He knew it 17 years ago, when he kept four QBs and knows it now when he’s keeping one 14 years younger than the man he’s backing up — and one probably smart enough to be eating a little avocado ice cream himself these days just to be on the safe side.