Today was supposed to be a happy day in Foxboro as it signaled the start of training camp. The focus was supposed to be on the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots as they begin their title defense. Instead the talk remains the same as the past six months, as it centers on Deflategate as Tom Brady’s four-game suspension was recently upheld.
Every time the public opinion turns against the Patriots, Belichick seems to elevate his game and his team and that is one of the reasons New England has been so dominant since the beginning of the 21st century. That scrutiny is going to be magnified this season as the entire world is going to see how well they play with and without Brady. The division looks tougher than it has been in past years and an early slump could leave the team in danger of not making the playoffs.
One of the main questions people have been asking during the Deflategate nonsense is what Belichick thinks about this? We haven’t heard from him since well before the Wells Report was even released, until today. It is no surprise that Belichick did not say much in his press conference, but that is for a couple of reasons. The first is that trying to get answers from Bill Belichick can sometimes be harder than getting blood from a stone. Second, owner Robert Kraft said everything that needed to be said in his conference right before that and third is that he was excited to have a chance to play Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round last season, which was a surprise move as nobody saw the Patriots taking a quarterback that early. He did make it into a couple of games last season and played well completing over 70% of his passes with one touchdown and no interceptions. There was room for improvement as he was sacked six times, but he looked to be a competent passer. It is possible that Belichick sees this as a challenge–a clean slate–and it will go a long way towards cementing his legacy.
Belichick had to prove how good of a coach he is in consecutive years in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, the team had to shake off Spygate and the team rallied and ended up going 18-1 and came within a lucky play of completing a perfect season. The following year, the team lost Brady for the entire season as he tore his ACL and even though the team didn’t make the playoffs, they did win 11 games. Belichick is going to have his team ready to play and they want to show the world that they will win despite who is under center and how much air is in the football.
There has been a discussion in New England as to how long Brady and Belichick have with each other. It is believed that Brady may only have two or three years and Belichick wants to prove that he can win consistently with another quarterback that he grooms. Garoppolo was taken higher than Matt Cassel who led the team in 2008 filling in for Brady, or Ryan Mallet who was traded last year. Belichick believes that Garoppolo has what it takes and now he may get an opportunity to show what he can do. If Garoppolo can get the job done, that gives the team two great possibilities.
Most forget that Belichick is not just the head coach of the team, but he is also the general manager. If Garoppolo does perform well for however many games he starts the value could be huge for the Patriots. Let’s not forget that the Patriots are without a first-round draft pick next year due to the team’s penalty for Deflategate. If Garoppolo plays well, New England could try to leverage him or Brady in a deal to pick up a better pick than they probably would have had to start with.
Many people feel that Brady and Belichick helped make each other great and it was by luck that these two have been successful. Who knows what could have happened if Drew Bledsoe didn’t get hurt in 2000? Belichick has always been someone that looks at the big picture and it is quite possible he is looking toward the team without Brady, not only this year but in the coming years. Often, Belichick seems like he is two steps ahead of people and this quarterback situation could be another one of those situations.