Playing behind Tom Brady might turn into Groundhog’s Day for New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The loop would consist of him attending practice every morning to the tune of Bon Jovi’s greatest hits, sitting in on every meeting and learning every play in one of the NFL’s deepest playbooks, only to have a front row seat to Brady’s quest for unrivaled all-time greatness.
That thought could suck the life out of any athlete.
Two things are certain heading into next season: Garoppolo wants to play and get paid, and the Patriots want insurance for their soon-to-be 40-year-old quarterback. If Brady truly insists on playing to the age of 45, that would make Garoppolo’s worth to the Patriots invaluable.
It’s the kind of worth that makes a team go into a draft without a single first- or second-round pick and still turns down substantial offers from desperate suitors. It’s the kind that could easily push them into using the franchise tag next year and beyond.
Second-year backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett might be the only individual capable of saving Garoppolo from a meager existence in the NFL. No red capes or cheesy one-liners are needed. Garoppolo simply needs Brissett to show he can ball next season.
Bill Parcells’ profound belief in the North Carolina State prospect was good enough for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to select him in the third round of last year’s draft. He even saw game action early in the season with Brady serving out a four-game suspension and Garoppolo injured.
While Brissett didn’t blow anyone away with his arm, he showed tremendous poise for a rookie being thrown into the fire as a starting quarterback. He also avoided costly turnovers. Did he prove he was capable of being the next heir apparent to Brady?
Not at all.
Therein lies the problem for Garoppolo. If Brissett can prove he has a higher ceiling, Belichick could reconsider using the franchise tag, and Garoppolo might walk away clean next year in free agency. But if Brissett fails to earn that franchise quarterback kind of confidence from Belichick, it wouldn’t be any surprise if the Patriots tagged Garoppolo as a backup plan for Brady.
We are heading into uncharted waters for the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Forget about the Madden curse. Father Time is Brady’s opponent, and he is undefeated.
Belichick will take that into consideration when he makes his final decision on Garoppolo next season. A coach who typically fleeces teams like Jack Sparrow in trade negotiations is suddenly closed for business when it comes to one player. That observation alone speaks volumes regarding the significant talent Belichick believes he has in Garoppolo.
It’s hard to put a price tag on the most important position in the NFL. Look at the situation with Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins. The two sides have been trying to agree on a long-term deal for the last two years, but rather than let their franchise quarterback hit the free agent market, the Redskins placed back-to-back hefty franchise tags on him. Fortunately for Cousins, he doesn’t have to play backup to the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He is content with being a starter and collecting exceptionally large paychecks.
For Garoppolo, however, his salary would increase significantly if the Patriots tag him, regardless of whether he actually plays or not. Standing on the sidelines and collecting a fat check sounds heavenly for individuals not interested in competing. Garoppolo isn’t one of those individuals.
Of course, he wants to be well-paid for his services, but he also wants an opportunity to create his own legacy as a quarterback. It’s impossible to do that while wearing headphones and holding a clipboard.
If only Brissett could take his place.