NFL Teams Must Avoid New England Patriots Garoppolo, McDaniels

Another NFL regular season is in the books and once again New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has proven to be the smartest man in football.

The New England Patriots head coach wrapped up his NFL-record eighth consecutive division crown and 14th in the last 16 seasons. Along the way, “The Hoodie” was questioned both locally and nationally about some of the personnel moves he made, but in the end Belichick was right.

Then again, when isn’t he?

With Jimmy Garoppolo on the trade block, and assistants Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia on the wish lists of some NFL clubs with head coaching vacancies, the question must be asked; will the other 31 NFL teams ever learn?

Aug 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel talks to his team during the game against the Denver Broncos at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots have mastered the art of trading away players just before their careers begin to decline. Position doesn’t even matter as everyone from guard Logan Mankins and wide receivers Randy Moss and Deion Branch, to defenders Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel have been shipped away by Belichick.

The trades netted New England two first-round picks, a second, a third and a fourth. With those picks, the Patriots were able to draft current starters Patrick Chung, Nate Solder and Trey Flowers.

Another one of those picks resulted in the selection of quarterback Ryan Mallett; the most recent quarterback shipped out of New England with one year left on his contract. With Garoppolo entering the final year of his deal in 2017, is he the next backup to be outlasted by Tom Brady?

Since 2005, the primary backups for Brady have been Matt Cassel, Mallet and Garoppolo. Brian Hoyer was around for some time as well, however he was eventually released. Cassel and Mallett on the other hand, were traded.

The Patriots netted a second-round pick from the Kansas City Chiefs for Cassel (Vrabel was also a part of the deal) and New England turned Mallett into fourth and seventh-round picks.

While the reported asking price of a first and fourth-round pick for Garoppolo is a lot more than Belichick has accepted in the past, that isn’t why teams must avoid trading for Brady’s backup.

Missing on a quarterback, whether in the draft, free agency or trade market, can set a team back for a long time. The Chiefs traded away a second-round pick for Cassel and signed him to a six-year $63 million deal. He would last just four years, compiling a 19-28 record.

The Chiefs made one playoff appearance with Cassel at the helm and it was a disaster. He would complete just nine passes for 70 yards and three interceptions in a 30-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. In the four years since moving on from Cassel, the Chiefs have made the playoffs three times and finished above .500 all four years.

Mallett has been even less productive since leaving New England. A former offensive coordinator under Belichick, Bill O’Brien was named the head coach of the Houston Texans prior to the 2014 season after a brief stint at Penn State and brought Mallett along with him. Mallett would struggle to keep the starting job and would finish 2-4 as a part-time starter in 2014 and 2015 before being released after missing a team flight.

Even before Cassel or Mallett ever threw an NFL pass, Belichick was making deals involving quarterbacks. Drew Bledsoe, who held just about every passing record in franchise history, was eventually replaced by Brady and shipped away. The former first-overall pick was traded to the Buffalo Bills after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl.

New England received a first-round pick in return, which ended up being Ty Warren, an integral part of two Super Bowl teams. Despite having nine years left on a 10-year, $103 million contract, Bledsoe would play just three seasons in Buffalo, compiling a 23-25 record. The Bills have not made the playoffs since making the deal.

While these quarterbacks have struggled since leaving New England, the Patriots keep on rolling. After more than 15 years, other NFL teams are still willing to make high-profile deals with the Patriots. Even this season, New England traded away two of their best defensive players in Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins. Trey Flowers has nearly matched the production of Jones this season, while the Patriots have had success using Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy in the roles previous occupied by Collins.

The trade partners, the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns, are a combined 8-23-1 this season and both missed the playoffs. Not only are the Patriots the number one scoring defense in the NFL after trading away those defenders, but the pick New England received in the Jones deal provided us with this moment from the 2016 NFL Draft courtesy of Kevin Faulk.

Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the lack of success doesn’t stop at the players; it extends to coaches as well. Since taking over the Patriots, five of Belichick’s coordinators have accepted head coaching gigs. It started after the 2004 season when the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years.

Both offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel left to become head coaches. Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels and Bill O’Brien would all eventually land head coaching jobs as well.

Only O’Brien has a winning record since leaving Foxboro, and the five have a combined record of 99-140 as NFL head coaches. That doesn’t even include the Charlie Weis debacles at Notre Dame and Kansas. In comparison, the Patriots are 196-60 since Belichick and Brady joined forces.

As consistently as the Patriots have made the playoffs over the years, former quarterbacks and coordinators have been consistently watching the postseason from home. The three quarterbacks and five coordinators have a combined playoff record of 0-3. That’s about 23 seasons between the former Patriots, with just four (Texans this season being the fourth) playoff appearances.

Now it goes without saying that the majority of playoff-caliber teams aren’t looking to hire a head coach or starting quarterback. However all of the former Patriots quarterbacks and coaches, with the possible exception of Josh McDaniels with the Denver Broncos, were given more than enough time to lead or build a team. So if the coaches can’t make the playoffs with a sub par QB and the quarterbacks can’t make the playoffs with a coach that isn’t Belichick, what would happen if McDaniels or Patricia ended up with the same team as Garoppolo next season?

New England Patriots

Jan 1, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) both take the field prior to a game against Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it’s been done before, twice in fact. Romeo Crennel and Matt Cassel teamed up in Kansas City and Bill O’Brien brought Ryan Mallett to Houston. Those pairings combined to go 3-11. So for all the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers or even Chicago Bears fans out there hoping for a pairing of McDaniels and Garoppolo — be careful what you wish for. Belichick and company would have no problem shipping those two off for a top-five pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the depth of certain positions in this draft, an early pick in round two may even get the deal done.

At some point it’s reasonable to assume teams will stop trading with Belichick, but it doesn’t appear as if that time is now. No matter how good the deal looks on paper, the Patriots almost always benefit from the move.

As long as Belichick and Brady call Gillette Stadium home, the New England Patriots will be Super Bowl contenders. Any other coach or player is fair game and can be had for a price. Which team (or teams) will pay the price after this season? Only time will time.

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