As the Patriots approached their preseason game against the Panthers on Friday, there was a lot of talk about the Patriots quarterback reps in this game. Would Tom Brady play? Would he start? How many series would he play? Is playing Brady in the best interest of the team? Generally, the third preseason game is a game where most teams play their starters through the first half. It’s usually a good way to see where your team is at about a month since camp began. If you watched the game, you know what Jimmy Garoppolo got the start and Tom Brady came off the bench. Jimmy G. then came back in after Brady played four series. The general consensus after the game was the Brady played great and Garoppolo was terrible in the Patriots 19-17 win. For starters, let’s analyze that general consensus. Here were the numbers for the two players:
Jimmy Garoppolo – 9 for 15, 57 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 1 Sack
Tom Brady – 3 for 9, 76 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 Sack
Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t play well. However, keep in mind that he was playing against a very good defense and his offense was missing some key weapons including Rob Gronkowski. Garoppolo didn’t handle the pressure very well and there were times that he didn’t appear to have command of the offense. It was a sharp contrast from his game the previous week agains the Bears.
Tom Brady threw a great touchdown pass to Chris Hogan for 33 yards. Brady recognized the one-on-one matchup on the outside and placed the ball perfectly to Hogan. It was one of those throws that makes Brady an elite quarterback in the league. However, outside of that throw, did Brady really play great? He was 2 for 8 outside of that throw. Like Garoppolo he had a lot of pressure and almost threw an interception before getting sacked in his last series.
The reality is that both quarterbacks had trouble outside of the one throw by Brady. Part of it was the personnel around them. Part of it is the offensive line struggles. Part of it was playing against a very good defense. Neither player played great. It wasn’t a very good showing by the Patriots offense overall.
So, back to Garoppolo. While he was in, he appeared to be confused at times and in need of some coaching help. That’s Josh McDaniels job. Having said that, there were some good shots of Brady on the sideline while Garoppolo was in the game. He wasn’t exactly on the sideline looking for ways to help. When Garoppolo came to the sideline there were no shots of Brady going over and giving some tips to the kid. It didn’t happen. You know how we know it didn’t happen? Because the local media has been starving for this shot all preseason and they still didn’t get it. If it happened, you would have heard about it all over the airwaves and this shot would have been everywhere. Patriots Nation wants this to happen! When Brady came into the game, Jimmy G., McDaniels, and Brady were seen together looking at their tablets. That wasn’t happening what Garoppolo was in the game.
Surely, Tom Brady has a lot of knowledge and insight that he can provide to Garoppolo during the game. He picks apart defenses with his offensive genius. Why wasn’t he actively involved when Jimmy G. was in the game and then meeting with him together with McDaniels after each series? Is he more focused on his own play? Is he bitter that Garoppolo is getting the reps that he normally gets? Whatever it is, it just doesn’t seem right.
Bill Belichick has made it clear that Jimmy Garoppolo is the priority. He’s starting the first four games and the Patriots need him to play well to get off to a good start to the season. If Brady has plans to win a fifth Super Bowl, it’s in his best interest to help Jimmy G. along. If the team goes 1-3 or 0-4, that’s going to be tough to rebound from even with Tom Brady.
Remember in 2001 when Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe? When Bledsoe was healthy again, he expected to get his job back. Belichick had other plans. Bledsoe certainly wasn’t happy with the decision. However, he helped Brady every step of the way. He was on the sidelines, he was into the game, and he was giving a lot of feedback to Brady during the games. Brady knows this. He has spoken very highly of Bledsoe’s tutoring and how it helped him along that season. Now, fifteen years later, Brady has the same opportunity under much different circumstances. Brady is still the guy. Yet, he seems to be taking a much different approach than his mentor took in 2001.
This is something to watch. Whether he likes it or not, there’s going to be a point in Brady’s career where he’s not going to be the clear cut guy. Especially if he plans to play into his mid-40’s as he’s said in the past. It may not be this year or next. However, at some point, Brady is going to have to play the 2001 Drew Bledsoe role in some capacity if he wants to be around for a long time.