Part One: What-If Jimmy Stayed

Jimmy G
Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Look at that smile.  You have to give Bill credit: he picks some handsome gentlemen as quarterbacks.

Anyway, I want you to imagine this: the Patriots do not trade Jimmy Garoppolo last October.  Brady might be angry, but Kraft speaks to Tom beforehand (in October) and tells him the team would like to keep their options open for the future.  Brady will obviously be the starter to finish the season, but since Jimmy will be an FA in the offseason, the fact the team is keeping him, with the potential of losing him for nothing, shows the team will do what it takes to keep him (may it be a franchise tag or a new contract).

Since Jimmy got to town in 2014, Brady has put up the best numbers of his career (minus the first four weeks of 2014).  I would anticipate if Jimmy stayed in New England (possibly against Brady’s wishes), it would fuel him even more.  I will not go about changing the end results of this past season, but I will start with this offseason.

This past offseason, the value of the franchise tag for the QB position was $23.189 million.  In my hypothetical, we will say that since Jimmy never started more than 2 games, the Pats would use the tag as a last resort.

Instead, I will create a hypothetical contract for Garoppolo.

The Patriots did not have a lot of cap space this offseason, but in addition to the moves they made, I will add some more hypothetical moves in order to create hypothetical cap space; I will start off with the number $9,180,069 (the current cap space number).

Since the Patriots (in my scenario) did not trade Jimmy, they did not receive the 2nd round pick from the 49ers.  The Pats made a few trades involving that pick, but I will eliminate the two players they ultimately did pick as a result of having said pick (sorry Duke Dawson and Christian Sam); combined, their cap hits add up to $1,388,079.

Now (as was a possibility this offseason), I will cut Dwayne Allen from the team, saving the Patriots $5,000,000.

Finally, I will restructure the contracts of Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower by converting there 2018 salaries into signing bonus (I will have their salaries as $915,000, similar to how Antonio Brown restructured his contract this offseason); this would save New England an additional $11,420,000.

Overall, this would give New England $26,988,148 in cap space for 2018.

Hypothetical Salary Cap Moves

Current Amount of Cap Space $9,180,069
Don’t draft Duke Dawson and Christian Sam* + $1,388,079
Cut Dwayne Allen + $5,000,000
Convert Devin McCourty’s salary ($7.5 million) into a signing bonus** + 6,585,000
Convert Dont’a Hightower’s salary ($5.75 million) into a signing bonus** + 4,835,000
Final Projected Salary $26,988,148

*Duke Dawson’s cap number is $862,705; Christian Sam’s cap number is $525,374

**The salaries of McCourty and Hightower in this hypthothetical would be $915,000

Everything here is a rough hypothetical based on salary information provided by Over The Cap (and assumptions about salary cap restructuring)

Okay, now that we’ve created some salary, let’s get Jimmy signed.  I will base this offer on the parameters that the team allegedly did offer Garoppolo prior to him being trade, but  with a few caveats: he will be assured he will replace Brady before his contract over, and I will make it a three-year deal (versus four) so Jimmy could cash-in at full market value in 2021

With that in mind, my hypothetical contract for Jimmy will be 3 years/$54 million (I will not go into guarantees); the Patriots typically keep salary cap going into a season, so this would give the Patriots $8,988,148 of salary cap going into 2018 (about $191,921 less than they currently have).

The math portion of this article is now over… you made it.

Jimmy is signed through 2020, being paid the same as Case Keenum, and is given an assurance he will replace Tom Brady.

In this hypothetical, Bill Belichick reigns supreme, and, as he has done so with every other player as overlord of the team, he will move on from a player when he thinks it is time.

Favre Rodgers.jpg
Credit: AP Images

This is the Aaron Rodgers argument.  Following the 2007 season, the Green Bay Packers, coming off a loss in the NFC Championship Game, were in limbo.  Brett Favre just came off of a season where he led Green Bay within a game of the Super Bowl, threw for 28 TDs and 15 INTs (his best season in a few years) … but he was 38… and he retired.

Green Bay had a successor in store in Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers was drafted in the first round in 2005 and had been sitting behind Favre for three seasons.  In 2007 he had filled in admirably for Favre in a game against Dallas, and Green Bay was comfortable with their future.

But Favre came back (again), announcing he was not ready to hang up the cleats.  Green Bay did not care, did not want to sacrifice their future, and they decided to move on and trade Favre to the New York Jets.  They chose Rodgers (age 25) and the future over Favre (age 39) and his legacy and contribution to the team.

Favre went on to play three more seasons, playing at an MVP level at age 40 in 2009, but retired after the 2010 season.  Rodgers led Green Bay to a Super Bowl in 2010, has won two MVPs (2011,2014), and is arguably the best QB in the league.

I am of the belief that Tom Brady instigated the trade of Garoppolo, and that if Jimmy stayed around, it would have enraged him beyond belief… and if Jimmy was PAID a high salary, Brady could feel disrespected enough to ask out for a new situation (maybe HE wants to go home and play in San Francisco), or Bill could make the biggest move of his career and move Brady on his own accord, since he had the blessing of Kraft to keep Jimmy (in our hypothetical).

If Jimmy stayed going into 2018, the writing would be on the wall for Brady’s time in New England.

In this hypothetical, I will say that the Patriots simply rip off the band-aid, tell Brady in the offseason that they want to move on to Jimmy (age 26) sooner than later, and ask him if he would like to stay without an assurance he would start, or if he wants to move somewhere else to finish his career… and I think Brady would tell New England to release him, and he would sign in San Francisco (his childhood team) to finish his career.

Brady 49ers
Credit: Tom Brady

Why would any of this ever happen?

Well, we need to remember who the coach of the Patriots is.  Bill Belichick (an economics major) has always been meticulous about his team and players, and if he thinks a player will fall off, he will move on.  If you annoy him and cause an issue, then goodbye (see: Jamie Collins).  I truly believe that the fact Jimmy was on the team going into 2017 showed that Bill wanted him long-term.  Garoppolo’s trade value was never higher than it was in the 2017 offseason; the draft was not strong for QBs (at the time, although I love Deshaun Watson), and neither was free agency… Jimmy was the best option for many.  Bill ALWAYS tries to extrapolate value, and if he knew then that the team was going to keep Brady past 2017, he would have traded Jimmy.

Since Jimmy stayed, his value lowered as needs were filled (thus demand lowered).  Bill knew this, so he must have had a reason for keeping him… replace Brady.

NFL: Super Bowl XLIX-New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks

Bill is a competitor and is also very aware of his legacy.  Yes, he has won 5 Super Bowls with Tom, but imagine if he could have moved on from the Greatest of All-Time, transitioned to Jimmy Garoppolo, and then won with him.  Bill Belichick is 66 years and could absolutely have another handful of years in him.  Maybe he would not have coached Jimmy forever, but leading the transition from one QB to another, keeping New England a humming machine (making him more vital than Brady), and maybe having a handpicked successor as coach to keep it going (his kids work on the staff…), that could be very appealing to him.

Nevertheless, if New England chose to transition from Brady to Garoppolo at some point following 2017, they would have come to a few conclusions:

  • Going into 2018, Tom Brady will be 41 years old. Yes, he has said he wants to play until he is 45, and has shown no signs of slipping (to me at least), but time is undefeated
  • A viable successor was on the roster. Jimmy Garoppolo had filled in for Brady in 2016, and his presence on the 2017 New England Patriots made it clear Bill sacrificed cashing-in on Garoppolo’s trade value in favor of keeping him around
  • Having Jimmy going into his age 26 season would give New England a QB they believe in for years to come. Security at quarterback is premium in the NFL, and if New England believed they had their guy for the next decade plus, what would they rather have: security through the 2020s and into the 2030s, or a few more seasons of Brady, then an unknown?
  • Bill Belichick constructed a roster that has missed the postseason three times since 2000 (and two of those years Brady was not the starter), winning 5 Super Bowls and countless games. He clearly knows what he is doing, so as a team trying to maintain success for years to come, we should trust that he knows how to pick the next QB, as he has shown the ability to construct a winning roster year-after-year
  • Moving onto Jimmy Garoppolo is not meant to be a sign of disrespect to Tom Brady, but rather, assuring success for the team in the long-term. Plain and simple

At the end of the day, this is all hypothetical.  It would have been a case of Robert Kraft putting his faith in Bill Belichick’s ability to manage the roster into the future, allowing Bill to manage the QB position the same way he has managed the roster since 2000.  Tom Brady has been instrumental to the success of the team for 18 seasons, but a business decision is made in order to keep the franchise in good hands moving forward.

Do we know how good Jimmy Garoppolo will be? Well, we saw him start in 2016 and finish the season as a 49er in 2017.  He is 7-0 as a starter, but in SF he threw 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.  He got an enormous contract this past offseason, so clearly there is a belief he is capable of starting in this league at a high level, but it is still an unknown.

“Atypically, he [Tom Brady] has missed a lot of practices and, in the team’s private evaluations, is showing the slippage of a 40-year-old quarterback even as he is contending for MVP and is as deadly as ever with the game on the line”

– Seth Wickersham, ESPN (January 2018)

We should keep in mind that Bill kept him going into 2017, so Bill must have believed Garoppolo was worth more than the team could have gotten in a trade during the 2017 offseason when his value was extremely high; that value could only come to fruition if Jimmy was given the chance to start, simple as that. But in this scenario, Bill is allowed to treat Brady like Patriots of the past (Bledsoe, Milloy, Seymour, Collins, Mankins, etc.), moving on from a player when he believes that player can no longer contribute to the team, and/or he has a viable replacement/replacement plan for said player.

The Patriot Way reigns supreme.

There is a report saying Bill and the staff saw a decline in Brady this past season, but was it enough that – if Kraft did not intervene – he would have moved on from Brady anytime soon and given the team to Garoppolo?  Well, we’ll never know …

But I believe so.


The argument for keeping Brady (Part Two) is tomorrow

By: Nick Collins

Follow him on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)

Author: Nick Collins

Boston sports fan sharing his love for sports and perspectives as a fan

One thought on “Part One: What-If Jimmy Stayed”

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