It was really an eye opening moment when the Patriots snagged Eastern Illinois signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft. They took him fairly high, for one, which indicated that they really liked his skill set. Also interesting, he was coming from a “Veer and Shoot” offense at Eastern Illinois albeit one that was a little more spread-passing heavy than the typical Veer and Shoot system. This is not an offense that’s been known for producing guys prepared to execute NFL concepts because it’s a totally different approach to offense based off pre and post-snap run/pass option reads, many of which are illegal by NFL rules.
In year three with the Patriots he had to start the first two games due to Brady’s suspension over deflategate and was sharp executing their offense in victories over Arizona and Miami, thus driving up his potential trade value this offseason. However, the word is that the Patriots do not intend to trade him, shocking many around the league who need something to be shocked about this offseason.
I was discussing this issue recently with my good pal @drryanpepper and we came up with a few reasons why the Patriots would be best served to keep Jimmy around rather than trading him now while his value is at an all-time high:
- Tom Brady is old.
This is the easiest and most obvious one. Evidently Brady wants to play until he’s 45 or something and he currently seems on a nice trajectory to do so, but athletes often age like dogs at the end of their career and things can go downhill in a real hurry with something like the neck injury that took down Peyton Manning.
2. The Patriots offense is rep-intensive
The nature of the Patriots offense is to use multiple formations but a few key concepts to get after their opponents, much like a college system, with the QB getting a few options on each play to check through based on what they get from the defense. There’s tons of Iso-ball type designs with option routes designed to allow someone like Gronk or Edelman to find themselves in space on a good matchup and then tag team with Brady to out-execute their opponent.
My man @AlexJKirby has written a few excellent ebooks detailing the genius and process the Patriots use on offense to defeat their opponents. The main point is that chemistry, precision, and mastery over the system (and really the game of football itself) is everything in New England. It’s like the final stage of “the Lake Travis option.”
No doubt part of what they liked about Garoppolo was how the Veer and Shoot trained him to understand a full system of attacking opponents and how to use multiple options at the line of scrimmage to choose the best way to attack the opponent after the snap, even if the system and concepts were different. That and his quick release, they probably liked that too.
The Patriots really did work last year with stuff like the “smash-seam” combination from the empty formation that was often just a way to be a ball-control passing team that could always get Julian Edelman open in the middle of the field. The empty formation is a big reason why Brady is still dominating at age 39, it turns the game into a matter of understanding defenses and knowing how to get the ball out quickly where the offense is at advantage. The crucial factor then is not youthful athleticism but mental acumen and decision-making, which come with age and experience.
To trade Garoppolo is to trade a guy they’ve already had success teaching the Patriot way of offense to in hopes that they could find and train another one in time to replace a QB who’s going to be 40 years old next season. That’s really a risky bet, they don’t want to be in no man’s land at QB.
3. Are we sure they could find another good QB?
This was a point originally made by Colin Cowherd and then disseminated to me by @drryanpepper. The point is essentially, “hey, the Patriots lucked into Tom Brady finding him in the 6th round and most of the QBs they’ve drafted haven’t turned into much. If they have something good with Garoppolo they should hold onto him.”
The GM wannabe in every NFL fan and reporter wants to imagine what the Patriots could get selling high on Garoppolo. I’ve noticed that the trend in offseason pro sports analysis these days is to be calculating and business like with teams and their players/assets, as though evaluating the stock market. NFL drafts are often graded based on value and who made out with the most assets at the end, sometimes at the expense of evaluating which teams got players that fit what they want to do and always under the assumption that pre-draft grades on players are a good guiding measure. Much like how IPO prices are often assumed to be accurate when they really aren’t, I’m guessing some investors are nodding right now.
The Patriots seemed to have determined with Matt Cassel that A) he wasn’t quite as good as everyone else thought, certainly not good enough to keep him around as a contender to the throne when Brady was still in his prime. B) That his value would never be higher if they wanted to trade him.
As it turned out they got an early second round pick for him that became Patrick Chung, so they made out pretty well in that deal, but the value was less than everyone assumed it would be.
So if the Patriots think they’ve found a QB in Garoppolo that can run their offense at a high level and be the succession plan (or at least a high level back-up) for an aging Brady, then what kind of sense does it make to trade him? Even if they got another starting defensive player that’s not a good return for a player that’s basically an insurance policy on the entire franchise.
Reports out now suggest that these are the sorts of calculations the Patriots are making right now in determining to keep Garoppolo around. That’s my read on what they’re thinking.
Good luck to the NFL teams that will determine that their right course of action this offseason is to snatch up a young QB that’s five years away from understanding defenses half as well as a Patriots QB and then rushing him into action as a rookie.