Tom Brady’s ideal successor to the New England Patriots is the quarterback of the franchise for Brady’s childhood team.
The Patriots gave Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick in 2017, to bring about the reported grief from Bill Belichick. He envisioned Garoppolo driving the Patriots in another decade of dominance, but owner Robert Kraft ordered Belichick to trade Garoppolo and keep Brady, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham reported in 2018.
Neither Brady nor Garoppolo will be in New England at the start of the 2020 season, as the former signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (that’s again weird typing and saying out loud) as a free agent last month. The Patriots’ QB depth chart currently consists of Jarrett Stidham and former 49er Brian Hoyer, which does not exactly inspire the confidence of the dynasty.
This left NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry wondering if the Patriots would have been better off negotiating Garoppolo earlier, when Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson stopped fair shy of holding a neon sign above his head indicating that he would trade pick # 12 before this year’s draft for Garoppolo.
“At first glance, this decision made sense to both parties,” Perry wrote on Friday. “The Browns were desperately looking for a competent quarterback. They were flush with choice. The Patriots, meanwhile, had neither first nor second rounds that spring. For them, trading Garoppolo with a year left on his contract was an opportunity. to strengthen their recruiting of recruits in 2017 with one of the 15 best talents. “
The ripple effects, as Perry noted, would have been far-reaching.
Jackson would have had his quarterback of the future, and so the Browns may not have drafted No. 1 Baker Mayfield as a whole – or even had a choice – in 2018. The 49ers Kyle Shanahan admitted were enough focused on the acquisition of Kirk Cousins as a free agent in 2018 which they passed on to Patrick Mahomes during the 2017 draft, so they probably would have disappeared all-in on Cousins. The Patriots could therefore have spotted Deshaun Watson in 12th place – the same choice the Houston Texans used after acquiring it from the Browns – as Brady’s successor.
Fortunately for sick fans of the winning New England titles, that did not happen. It is also fair to wonder if any of the teams involved other than the Patriots were really better off.
The Garoppolo acquisition could have saved Jackson’s job in the short term, but the Browns only became a team that did not meet high expectations after Jackson’s layoff. The 49ers, had they signed Cousins on the same contract he signed with the Vikings in 2018, would have had more flexibility in the first season but less in the second compared to Garoppolo’s expansion. Neither Cousins nor Garoppolo is clearly an upgrade from the other, and it’s not like you can guarantee that Cousins wouldn’t have ripped up its ACL in 2018 either.
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The Patriots can (and surely) kick themselves whatever they want not to maximize Garoppolo’s commercial return, but the Browns might not see a hypothetical deal with Garoppolo with the same regret since again would have meant not choosing Watson.
The 49ers, assuming they’ve always signed Cousins, would have been happy anyway.