Cleveland Browns: Why Are Patriots So Eager To Deal Jimmy Garoppolo?

The Cleveland Browns are in play for a Jimmy Garoppolo trade, but why are the New England Patriots so ready to party with the quarterback?

The focus of the Super Bowl for the Cleveland Browns has been speculation about New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. One cannot help but wonder why the Patriots are so motivated to unload their promising backup quarterback now when there’s nothing that prevents them from keeping them at least another year.

One myth that needs to be debunked when it comes to Garoppolo is the idea that the Patriots must move him this offseason. They don’t. There is certainly a market to move the 25-year old former second round pick, but the team that benefits most from moving him now is the Patriots.

In the event Garoppolo becomes a free agent next season, the Patriots can use the franchise tag on him and if the two sides can’t work out an agreement, they can then trade him. This is the exact scenario that played out when it came to Matt Cassel. The Patriots franchised Cassel before dealing him to the Kansas City Chiefs.

So with that in mind, let’s answer one simple question: What is the biggest need the Patriots have to fill? Pass rusher? Another weapon for Tom Brady?

As much as those make sense, the biggest need for the Patriots is the quarterback after Brady. Despite trading pass rusher Chandler Jones before the season, trading linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns halfway through the season and losing what some will argue is the greatest tight end in NFL history in Rob Gronkowski to injury, the Patriots just won the Super Bowl.

In the event the Browns gave up 12th pick (just as an example) to get Garoppolo, the Patriots could turn around and pick a player like Taco Charlton, O.J. Howard, Corey Davis, or Reuben Foster. And they all could be great in New England, but none of those players were necessary for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl this year.

The Patriots certainly have talent, but they seem to be able find players that can do what they need in situations, minimize their responsibility to whatever their strength is so they can focus on  it and play with confidence. Kyle Van Noy this year has been a good example.

The only thing the Patriots really need is the next quarterback when Brady finally retires. And whenever Brady’s ability goes, it’s going to go fast. The hope is it won’t be due to injury, but he’ll be 40 years old next season and whether he plays to 42, 45, or even 50, there is always a level of uncertainty with Brady and just how long his body can sustain.

For their part, the Patriots are telling anyone and everyone how confident they are Brady will play the next several years. The only team it benefits to do this is, of course, the Patriots. If they were publicly unsure of his status, it would raise questions about Garoppolo and why they’re moving him, as it should.

There is talk of a contract extension with Brady, and Brady himself has said he intends to keep playing. Even if the Patriots sign him to a lifetime contract, Brady is year to year moving forward. People can talk about a three-year plan, five-year plan, they can talk about how conscious he is about his diet, his dedication to his band training and everything else. Brady is truly year to year and the Patriots always have a plan. After all, that’s why they drafted Garoppolo in the first place.

So if the greatest need for the Patriots is the quarterback after Brady, why would they trade the person drafted to be that in Garoppolo? And why would they be in such a hurry to trade Garoppolo a year before the situation demands it?

The simplest explanation is not only do the Patriots believe Garoppolo isn’t a long-term answer, but they want to move him now so they have the roster space and assets to try to get someone who might be.

For all of the positions the Patriots have been able to replace, the list of good quarterbacks the Bill Belichick has produced is as follows: Tom Brady. That’s it.

The Patriots completely lucked into Brady with the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft. No one is going back to his tape at Michigan or his workouts and coming to the conclusion that this guy was always going to be great. He was as unlikely a superstar as the league has ever seen, let alone the greatest quarterback of all-time.

Since selecting Tom Brady in 2000, the Patriots have drafted eight other quarterbacks. Obviously, Brady’s emergence has mitigated the need for this, but the Patriots have been proactive when it comes to trying to add quarterback talent.

  • 2002 – Rohan Davey, 4th round
  • 2003 – Kliff Kingsbury, 6th round
  • 2005 – Matt Cassel, 7th round
  • 2008 – Kevin O’Connell, 3rd round
  • 2010 – Zac Robinson, 7th round
  • 2011 – Ryan Mallett, 3rd round
  • 2014 – Jimmy Garoppolo – 2nd round
  • 2016 – Jacoby Brissett, 3rd round

The last two are still unknowns, but Cassel has been the best of the bunch to this point and he only had one good year outside of his season in relief of Brady when he suffered the ACL injury in 2008. Cassel started two years for the Chiefs and became a journeyman backup, most recently for the Tennessee Titans behind Marcus Mariota.

They’ve also brought in undrafted free agent quarterbacks, including Brian Hoyer.  Hoyer was a nice backup and has been a starter for multiple teams including the Browns and the Houston Texans. He was at his best this past season with the Chicago Bears before a broken forearm ended his season. Hoyer may be a bridge for a rookie quarterback if the Bears go that route.

Two of the quarterbacks Belichick selected are now coaches. Kevin O’Connell is currently the quarterbacks coach for the Washington Redskins while Kliff Kingsbury is the head coach of his alma mater, Texas Tech. Coincidentally, one of the quarterbacks in this draft, Pat Mahomes, has been coached by Kingsbury.

Patrick Mahomes 2017 NFL Draft

Sep 29, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) drops back to pass against the Kansas Jayhawks in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It stands to reason that Belichick will place a call to Kingsbury about Mahomes, since Kingsbury knows exactly what it takes to play under Belichick. This could play out to where the Patriots replace Garoppolo for Mahomes. A physically gifted quarterback that needs development and structure to harness what he already does well and add to it; a perfect quarterback for the Patriots to develop behind Brady.

It’s possible Belichick is so confident that he and the Patriots can simply pluck a quarterback out of the ether when Brady does finally retire, but the evidence isn’t there. More likely, his career in the NFL has shown him both how difficult it is to find good quarterback talent and just how important it is to hang onto them. And again, he always has a plan.

If Garoppolo is good enough take to be the quarterback to take over after Brady, it stands to reason Belichick isn’t giving him up without a fight, exploring every potential avenue to keep him. Trading him away a year earlier than he absolutely has to flies in the face of that logic.

Belichick is a lot of things, but no one has ever accused him of being altruistic. And it’s even more difficult to think he’d be so generous when it comes to the quarterback position. He cuts or trades players at the drop of a hat if he deems it necessary. Cold and calculating, he gets rid of players too early rather than too late, trying to maximize the return.

That is, unless Belichick believes the answer is already there, has someone specific in mind to replace him or he wants to give the organization as much time as possible to find the replacement.

It’s possible the Patriots view Jacoby Brissett as the answer. Given his rookie year, that’s difficult to believe, but he could be far better in practice and meetings than he was in his pro debut. There’s plenty of time for him to improve and has time to develop into a significantly better passer. The Patriots may have quarterbacks they like in this draft as well, but the last option seems to be the most realistic.

New England doesn’t want to have to go from Brady to a rookie. It can work for a game or few, but the NFL is going to catch up and take advantage to the talent disparity. The Patriots are going to want someone who can come in and be confident in what he’s looking at even if they aren’t yet comfortable with the stage. Belichick isn’t interested in waiting around on a rookie to figure things out. He’s never done it. He’s not about to start now.

For that reason, it seems important for Belichick and company to give themselves as much time as possible to get themselves a quarterback since for every year Brady plays, they’ve got time to groom his successor, assuming they have found them.

The last piece of the puzzle is offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Belichick has succeeded with other offensive coordinators, obviously. Charlie Weis and Bill O’Brien are two good examples. Nevertheless, it makes sense for Belichick to squeeze as much out of McDaniels as possible, since he’s now actively looking for another head coaching opportunity. Beyond running his offense, that means taking advantage of his ability to groom and prepare the quarterback position.

The best thing the Patriots have done to keep McDaniels (and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia) in New England is consistently going so deep in the playoffs. Teams aren’t terribly patient and jobs fill up with available candidates, so when the Patriots are finally done with their playoff run, a Super Bowl victory in this case, the jobs are gone and they are still with the Patriots. The best organization in the NFL doesn’t experience any attrition with their front office or the major components of the coaching staff.

Whether it’s this coming year or soon after, a team is going to hold out and wait to make McDaniels their head coach. Belichick knows it, has given his blessing and endorsement of McDaniels to leave. It’s a prudent to get everything out of him while he’s got him to find the next quarterback, so he’s not looking for a new quarterback at the same time he’s looking for a new offensive coordinator.

Is it possible that if the Cleveland Browns get Garoppolo, he will be a good quarterback? Absolutely. Is that how the Patriots view Garoppolo? Not likely. The Patriots and Bill Belichick in particular are always playing for an advantage, and it doesn’t make sense for them to deal away the team’s biggest need unless they don’t believe he’s the answer to that need, but can also deal him away at a substantial profit. Someone is going to bet their future on Jimmy Garoppolo—hopefully it’s not Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns.

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