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The Jimmy Garappolo Trade

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The Jimmy Garappolo Trade

Joe Stafford '18, Sports Editor

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The NFL trade deadline brought with it some excitement this season. Jay Ajayi was traded to the Eagles, Kelvin Benjamin was shipped off to Buffalo, and in the biggest move of the NFL season, The New England Patriots traded Quarterback Jimmy Garropolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second round pick. Garoppolo, a two-time Super Bowl champion, has been sought after by a number of teams since his relief of Tom Brady during the suspension that ensued from the Deflategate scandal. The former Eastern Illinois product looks to be the future for the historic San Francisco franchise.

A surprise to most of Patriot Nation, this move comes after the Patriots reportedly declined an offer from the Cleveland Browns that included at least a first round pick in exchange for Garoppolo during the offseason. Yet, New England still orchestrated this move with significantly less compensation to gain. The trade is questionable, but certainly should not be shocking anyone. The Patriots have a long history of transactions that resulted in the losses of very productive players. Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Richard Seymour, Deion Branch, Vince Wilfork, Adam Vinatieri, Jamie Collins, and Chandler Jones are just a few that fell to the cruel reality that is the “Patriot Way”.

If you read my article on the Jamie Collins Trade, I supported the Patriots in shipping away the former All-Pro. However, this Garoppolo situation is completely and utterly different. I would like to make my opinion clear, with no other interpretation possible. The Patriots decision to trade Jimmy Garoppolo was a mistake.

I believe the Patriot way is a charade. It is a product of Robert Kraft and company being incredibly stingy with the salary cap. They rely fully on the incredible coaching of Bill Belichick. His coaching prowess allows the Kraft family to save a significant amount of money, while under Belichick’s tutelage, the scrubs of the NFL become serviceable, and sometimes thriving starting players. The Patriots did not want to place the franchise tag on Garoppolo, so they shipped him out for much less then he was actually worth. This process cannot and will not last! Even the great Bill Belichick has his faults. Ty Law is a famous example of a mistake made by Belichick. Law, an already two-time All Pro at the time, saw his contract expire at the end of the 2004 season. A season that saw him secure a third Super Bowl victory for the Patriots in four years. Belichick’s attempts to sign him were absurd, offering him little compensation compared to the amount he could garner on the open market. Law signed with the Jets, and proceeded to lead the league in interceptions that same season. Meanwhile, the Patriots posted a 10-6 record and lost in the divisional round to a high powered Bronco offense. The decision to let Law go was not only felt immediately, but would later haunt them in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants. New England’s starting cornerbacks, Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs, made two impactful mistakes that cost New England a fourth championship. In the fourth quarter, Samuel dropped a seemingly easy interception that would have closed the game. The very next play, David Tyree made the catch of the century (and the only important catch of his career). After the helmet catch, the Giants took a strike downfield, hoping to abuse the one on one matchup of: Plaxico Burress (6’5) v.s Ellis Hobbs (5’8). Shocker, Burress scored and the rest is history. Now, it is not certain whether having Law on the field would have changed anything, but it would have given New England a solidified All-Pro Cornerback to cover Burress and the rest of the Giants’ offense.

A more recent example of a Belichick blunder is the Chandler Jones trade. The Patriots sent Jones to the Cardinals in exchange for Jonathan Cooper and a second round pick. Cooper was cut during the season, so this trade essentially becomes Chandler Jones for the second round pick (which turned into Jordan Richards). Richards is a decent special teams player who cannot work his way into the defensive rotation, and Jones has been elected to an All-Pro team and led the league in sacks. His loss is still impacting the Patriots pass-rush after two seasons. After Jones was shipped off, New England also lost Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Barkevious Mingo, and Chris Long. Belichick acquired only Kony Ealy (who they later cut) and Trey Flowers as replacement for their lost edge players. As a direct result, the Patriots defense surrendered the most yards to opposing offenses in the NFL during the first six weeks of the season. They were allowing, on average, four-hundred and eight yards per game. Clearly the Patriots, and more specifically Bill Belichick, have made some mistakes.

Yes, the Patriots did survive, and thrive, after these moved have been made. Yes, Bill Belichick is right more often then not. And yes, I know that the Garoppolo trade does not make an immediate impact on the season, but it only further clouds New England’s future if Brady and Belichick abscond into retirement.

This uncertain future begs the question, did the Patriots ever consider trading Brady? Reports have emerged that prior to the agreement to trade Garoppolo, the 49ers had inquired about trading for the forty year old Quarterback. Some scoff at the notion of trading the arguable “G.O.A.T”, but isn’t it possible? We just read a list of potential Hall-of-Famers that the Patriots traded away, and Belichick has proven time and again that he is not afraid of making a controversial move. Moves of this caliber are few and far between, but they have certainly happened before. Joe Montana was traded from San Francisco to Kansas City, and Peyton Manning was released by the Colts and signed by the Broncos. I am certain that Belichick wants to solidify his legacy by winning a Super Bowl without Brady. He would join Joe Gibbs as the only coaches to solidify dynasties with multiple Quarterbacks. Evidently, Belichick miscalculated with Garoppolo; thinking that he would sign a bridge contract until Brady retires. Reportedly, New England offered Garoppolo a four year contract worth eighteen million. Obviously, he declined. This offer proves that Belichick at least considered “Jimmy GQ” as the heir to Brady.

Tom Brady, statically speaking, is the best quarterback in the NFL. But if anyone has watched multiple games this year, then they may have noticed Brady’s accuracy and throwing power has been inconsistent this season. Of course, Brady flashes his excellence on a regular basis, however, to say that he is having the best season of his career is a stretch. At times, he looks forty. It may be the product of a struggling offensive line, Brady was sacked more times in the first five games of the season then he was all of last year. Regardless of cause, I still feel that Brady needs to be watched closely. Let’s remember that Brett Favre had his best statistical season at forty in Minnesota. The following year was a disaster that showed Favre to be a old shell of himself, and eventually forced him into retirement . This being said, I do not believe Brady will have as big as a fall off. The Patriots offense is still excelling, but caution must be exercised. Brady may not, and in my opinion will not, be the same player in two seasons.

To justify the trading of Jimmy Garoppolo is hard; attempting to justify the compensation the Patriots received is impossible. This trade is not for lack of interest, Garoppolo was a hot commodity. His performance in Brady’s absence sold many NFL teams that he is a potential franchise Quarterback. One of those franchises was the Cleveland Browns. It has been confirmed from multiple sources that Cleveland did contact New England a couple of days before the deadline to discuss a trade for Garoppolo. The Patriots told them that he was not for sale, and Cleveland instead (almost) traded for Bengals Quarterback A.J McCarron. The trade was nullified due to a tardiness in reporting the trade to the league office, but the trade details were still revealed. The Browns had offered a second and third round draft choice to the Bengals for McCarron. If the Browns were prepared to offer two high draft picks for a player with significantly less pedigree then Garoppolo, then one must wonder what the Patriots may have received if they had completed the trade with Cleveland instead of San Francisco. The Browns would have absolutely overcompensated; a package containing a first round pick and possibly more was certainly possible. Was Belichick swayed by the fact that Cleveland is in the AFC? Did he not want Garoppolo in-conference? I give that idea no legitimacy. Think about it, why would Garoppolo make the conscious decision to remain with the Browns after his contract expires!? He wouldn’t! He would leave regardless of how much money the Browns threw at him. In addition, the theory that Belichick wanted to give Garoppolo the choice of where he went is ridiculous. When in Belichick’s career has he ever appeased a player before the needs of the team? It has never happened!

The question now becomes, who succeeds Tom Brady? New England will be too far down to draft any of the top quarterback prospects like Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. Do the Patriots gamble on a Quarterback like Mason Rudolph? Rudolph is a prototypical Patriot. He does not talk, and quietly does his job. However, he is a low-ceiling prospect that is very hesitant to take risks, which is not ideal for a NFL Quarterback. In the 2019 Draft, the Quarterback class is nowhere near as talented as the upcoming group. With all of these attributing factors, why would you even consider trading a player that works in the system? Regardless if Garoppolo flames out in San Francisco, no one will know what could have been if he had remained in New England. He may be a system Quarterback, who is ideally suited to be successful in the Patriots offense. At the heart of the issue the question remains, What if?

This trade is shrouded in mystery, and we will have to wait a long time to solve these questions. Either way, the landscape of the NFL has been rocked from the deadline, and a number of surprising revelations have occurred. A 40-year old outlasted his replacement, the 49ers may actually have a franchise Quarterback, and the Eagles stole a Pro-Bowl Running-Back for a bag of Doritos. But the Browns are still without a Quarterback, I guess some things never change.

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