In the preseason New England traded a lot of draft picks for proven NFL players and were talked about as a potential 16-0 team. They went into Week 1 against Kansas City as a nine-point favorite.
And then it all started to fall apart. New England have far more flaws than they seemed to just three months ago. The pass rush has disappeared, a strong cornerback pairing of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore hasn’t materialized and the loss of Julian Edelman has been damaging to their third down efficiency.
The succession plan
Bill Belichick has always been aware of the need for a plan B. With Tom Brady hitting 40 this summer, it seemed like the Patriots had a good one lined up in Jimmy Garoppolo.
The young backup displayed his talents last season when Brady was suspended, and given the lack of history of age 40+ quarterbacks it looked like he would be the quarterback of the future for New England. The only problem was that the succession plan hinged on Tom Brady either becoming expendable, retiring of his own accord, or Garoppolo signing for vastly below market value.
As a 2018 free agent, Garoppolo’s window to be the starter for the Patriots was extremely small, and as we have seen in the first eight weeks this season, Tom Brady shows no signs of dropping off to even a league-average quarterback, nevermind replaceable one.
As a result, the Patriots had to move him or watch him leave for nothing, but it leaves them without a backup for 2017 or any insurance should Brady wake up one day and feel all the hits he has taken.
No room for investment
New England have taken a lot of quarterbacks in the Brady era. From Ryan Mallett and Matt Cassel to Jacoby Brissett and Garoppolo, Bill Belichick has always wanted a talented prospect behind Brady both as an insurance policy but also to push Brady and let him know that any slip could result in a trip to the bench.
Right now the Patriots have Brian Hoyer as their backup. He started his career in Foxborough, but his tour of the league since has been very shaky and he poses no threat to Brady now, or even a 43-year-old, league-average Brady.
You would expect then, that the Patriots would turn that high second-round pick into another quality quarterback option to push Brady, but that is very unlikely to happen.
This Patriots team has a lot of holes, from every level of the defense to their need for a consistent running back and another underneath option or a second tight end… The 2017 Patriots are among the worst team Belichick has fielded in the last ten years, and they need to invest their draft picks on players that are going to be useful rotation pieces at the very least, and that is not the job of being Tom Brady’s backup.
#12 has to play
As I said, there is no history for quarterbacks in their 40’s, and while Tom Brady seems as equipped as anyone to do so, one injury and it could all be over. However, the Patriots now need Tom Brady to play for another four-plus years. They have no room to invest a pick into a backup, and even if they did it will still take time for them to be ready. Garoppolo was the Aaron Rodgers to Brady’s Brett Favre, but TB12 has been too good to even consider moving on yet. Now he has to be too good for another four years.
The Patriots dynasty is teetering, and it is more focused on the right arm of Tom Brady than ever before.
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