Almost three years ago, the Patriots had the best quarterback situation in the league with Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Bill Belichick even said so himself.
But then came Halloween in 2017 when the Patriots sent Garoppolo to the 49ers in exchange for a second round pick, putting the franchise’s trust in Brady, who was still performing at a high level at the age of 40 years old. Fast forward to now and 2020, the Patriots don’t have Brady after he signed with Tampa Bay and will only receive a compensatory pick in return.
The Patriots went from having two really good quarterbacks to essentially none (the jury is still out on Cam Newton). The franchise went from having the best situation in the league at the position, to being just like many other teams who have been mocked over the years in these parts for not having its quarterback situation figured out. And making matters worse, they only have a second round and a compensatory-pick to show for it.
So, how did they get here? It’s a windy road.
In 2017, when Garoppolo was traded, he was in the final year of his rookie deal and Brady was signed through 2019, although 2018 and 2019 were team options, so an out was there if the team wanted to go with the youngster.
At the time of the trade, the thought was the Patriots couldn’t justify paying both Brady and Garoppolo since Garoppolo would no longer be on his rookie deal and the franchise wanted to get something in return rather than just let him walk as a free agent at the end of the year. Also, it was widely reported Brady went to Kraft behind the scenes to get Garoppolo shipped out of town.
If only Kraft, Belichick and the organization knew what was coming a few months after the trade happened.
In that 2017 season, the Patriots ultimately reached the Super Bowl and fell to the Eagles, but after that game (when Belichick benched Malcolm Butler), Brady seemed to have a different attitude towards the organization than a few months prior when he wanted Garoppolo gone.
According to Jeff Benedict’s book “The Dynasty,” Brady went to owner Robert Kraft and said he wanted out of town following the 2017 season because of the way he was being treated and not being shown the respect he thought he deserved (just look to Gisele Bundchen in Tom vs. Time to know more).
This led to a number of meetings following the Super Bowl loss with Kraft playing the middleman between Brady/Bundchen and Belichick. Ultimately, while none of Brady’s gripes were really resolved, Brady agreed to return.
“I don’t want to go,” Brady told Kraft, according to the book. “I’ll work it out on my end.”
Everyone knows how the 2018 season went, as it ended with the Patriots beating the Rams in the Super Bowl for their sixth title. With that being said, aside from the AFC title game in Kansas City, Brady didn’t play as big of a role as he did in past years. The Patriots relied more on the running game than in any other year.
Stat-wise, it was a rather pedestrian year for Brady as he was seventh in passing yards, 18th in completion percentage and 10th in touchdowns.
As for Garoppolo in San Fransisco, he lit it up in the five games that he started (six games overall) in 2017, going 5-0, competing 67 percent of his passes for 1,560 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Then in 2018, he only appeared in three games because he suffered a torn ACL in Week 3 against Kansas City.
Then last year, Garoppolo’s first as a starter, he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl where they fell to the Chiefs. The quarterback didn’t put up outstanding numbers along the way, but he got the job done, which was what John Lynch noted this past offseason.
“The guy’s done nothing but win since he’s been here,” he said. “A lot of people try to pick his game apart for whatever reason. All I know is the guy wins football games and he’s a tremendous teammate. Very talented young man, and I think his best football is still ahead of him.”
Meanwhile, in New England Brady was the most miserable 8-0 quarterback in the history of the league and his frustration lasted the entire year, all the way through the wild card loss to the Titans. It was also one of the worst statistical years of his career, ranking in the bottom third of the league in several categories.
And then everyone knows what happened from there.
Brady became a free agent for the first time in his career and on a March night he went to Kraft’s house to tell him he was leaving the organization. The two then called Belichick and a few days later Brady signed with the Buccaneers forcing the Patriots to start all over at quarterback.
Looking back now, the Patriots really messed things up by trading Garoppolo in 2017 and not letting things play out into that offseason.
Sure, they wanted to get something in return, but potential franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. The Patriots were in such a great spot when they had both players, especially when it seemed Garoppolo would take over for Brady, but yet they did not play the whole thing out as long as possible.
If Garoppolo wasn’t traded, he would have been an impending free agent when Brady went to Kraft following the 2017 season looking to move on and then wouldn’t all parties involved have agreed to it? Belichick certainly would have as he’s been on record with how much he loved Garoppolo, and then even at the time Kraft listened to Brady at first and was going to allow him to leave.
The Patriots would have let Brady out of his contract and then used that money to sign Garoppolo to a long-term deal.
Now, it’s worth pointing out the Patriots may not have won Super Bowl LIII if all this happened, but who knows? Brady’s only real signature moment in that run was against Kansas City in the AFC title game. Even so, the Patriots would be set up for the next five-plus years at the quarterback position and not find themselves in the position they are now.
Right now, the Patriots are praying Newton is the answer, but even if he shows it for the rest of this year, does he re-sign? Do they franchise him? It’s still up in the air if they can get multiple years from him. And then there’s not much optimism with second-year player Jarrett Stidham.
The Patriots were set up so well for the future at the most important position, but in a span of three years they went from having two great players to basically none.