Twenty months after the deflated football drama began in New England, we might finally have a winner: Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
New England’s No. 2 quarterback is the only player on the depth chart behind Tom Brady. But Brady’s 112-game streak of regular-season starts is in peril after an appeals court restored the NFL’s four-game ban of Brady for his role in deflating game-used footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship game in Foxborough and the subsequent alleged cover-up.
While the courtroom football might not be over, it’s fair to wonder what Garoppolo brings the Patriots in the first four games of the 2016 season and what the Patriots might do to fill in with Brady unavailable. For starters, they could lure Brian Hoyer as a backup, considering the free agent has experience in the offense and remains available at this late date.
Garoppolo is not Tom Brady. This we know, and the contract is another display of the disparity between No. 1 and No. 2 in New England.
Brady stands to lose $235,941.17 for four games if suspended this season, but none of his $9 million bonus.
Garoppolo will make $686,718 for the entire season, plus a scheduled workout bonus of $50,000.
For a little on-field insight, here’s what coach Bill Belichick said the day he drafted Garoppolo in the second round in 2014: “With the situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out but I think you’re better off being early than late at that position.” He also said, “We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization.”
The context has changed, of course, but there is truth in those words. And if the suspension sticks this time around, the tests for Garoppolo will be fast and furious.
Garoppolo’s first NFL start would be Week 1 at Arizona on Sept. 11 in a primetime game against one of the league’s most aggressive defenses. It so happens the Patriots traded their top pass rusher, Chandler Jones, to the Cardinals last month. Garoppolo’s next three starts would all be at home, but against Miami, then another primetime game, Sept. 22 vs. the Houston Texans — and reigning Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt — before facing The Ryan Bros. aggressive 3-4 defense on Oct. 2.
Snippets of the NFLDraftScout.com evaluation of Garoppolo coming out of Eastern Illinois University likened him to another EIU quarterback — Tony Romo.
“The comparison goes beyond coming from the same college program. Both lack elite physical skills, but are productive due to their timing, smarts and quick release to get the ball out,” senior analyst Dane Brugler wrote.
He was also praised for a “live arm, above-average timing and excellent passing vision.”
As for timing, the four-game audition would be ideal for Garoppolo because the 24-year-old can be a free agent after the 2017 season. If not as Brady’s replacement, the live action works as a resume-builder entering free agency. Recall on a similarly brief call with the Broncos (six starts), new Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler was handed $72 million over four years from the Texans.
In 2015, Garoppolo got into five games and completed one pass in four attempts for six yards.