Suspect organizations are always behind the curve in talent, leadership and results (See Cleveland Browns). Great organizations are always a step ahead of the curve, and that’s what the Patriots always seem to be.
While most organizations who lose a Top 3 QB for four games would be shaking in their cleats, nobody in the NFL world is panicking because Tom Brady has to sit out the first four games of the season as a result of the Deflategate scandal.
In a league where one game -- no one yard -- can be the difference between making the playoffs and watching it on TV, only a franchise with a Hall of Fame head coach, a transcending philosophy, an interchangeable system, the personnel, the consistent winning tradition and a track record of surviving without their top signal caller for an extended period of time, would be talking and walking like it’s business as usual.
The Pats, starting with head coach Bill Belichick, haven't expressed any concern over Brady's impending absence.
That confidence, and a 3-1 preseason, has spread to Pats fans as nobody is overly concerned that Jimmy Garoppolo, a guy who has never started an NFL regular season game and has 20 career completions, will be filling in for Brady during the four-time Super Bowl-winning QB’s brief hiatus.
(Photo Credit: musketfire.com)
“I think they go 3-1,” CBS analyst and former NFL QB Rich Gannon told TSL.
If so, that one loss will probably come on Sept. 11 in their Sunday Night Football home-opener against the rough and rugged Arizona Cardinals.
“The Cardinals week one is a tough draw,” said former Pats center Jeff Saturday on ESPN. "But this football team is going to rally (around Garoppolo) and do what they have to do."
“I’d be really shocked if they go 1-3,” Gannon added. “They knew this was going to happen for awhile and Garoppolo has gotten a ton of work in the offseason program and practices and training camp and preseason. He’s a smart guy and he’s been in this system now for several years and he’ll go out there and make good decisions and play within the system. He doesn’t have to be Tom Brady. He just has to take care of the football..., they’re good enough.”
Gannon can say that without people looking at him sideways because in 2008, Brady suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the season opener and missed the entire season. Matt Cassel came in and led the Pats to an 11-5 record.
I’m just sayin’...
All the third-year dude out of Eastern Illinois has to do is not mess it up. Super Bowl -winning coach Bill Cowher says if Garoppolo can get by this first game against Arizona on the road, he should be on easy street.
“He’s got three games at home after that, which helps,” Cowher told TSL. “I think Bill (Belichick) will play the no respect card to get an advantage and motivate his team to play at a higher level. It’s only four games and for Tom Brady, he’s going to shake the rust off and come back with a chip on his shoulder. You know how competitive this guy is and when he returns in Week 6, he won’t miss a beat.”
There’s one former QB who doesn’t think it will be as easy for the Pats to remain the leader of the pack in the AFC East with a guy who was drafted as Brady’s successor, but has never gotten his feet wet in real deal NFL action.
“Not having Brady is definitely going to affect them because with Tom you figure they are going to win three out of those four,” Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts told TSL. “Now there’s a huge question mark in that division, which looks like it’s going to be really competitive.”
Fouts says a record of 9-7 might win the AFC East and 10-6 probably will. “So you’re taking a real setback here if they don’t get off to a good start with Garoppolo, which is a possibility. And the Patriots have a tough schedule too coming out the shoot with Arizona, Miami, an improved Houston squad and the Buffalo Bills.“
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
With all due respect to Fouts’ professional pessimism, CBS lead announcer Phil Simms says the home games that Cowher eludes to definitely gives the Pats an advantage as New England is a wicked 26-2 at home since 2013.
The Dolphins last won in Foxborough in ‘08, the Texans are 0-3 at Gillette Stadium and the Bills are a dismal 3-28 against The Hoody dating back to 2000.
These squads are manageable at the very least for Garoppolo, who was drafted in the second round two years ago and viewed as Brady's potential successor. The 6-foot-2 QB has spent the past two offseasons preparing for his big shot replacing Brady. Tom finessed the justice system last season and got his four-game ban vacated. Unfortunately, the wheels of justice caught up with the “great deflator' and the suspension was reinstated in federal court.
Jimmy G held it down in preseason last year, completing 61 of 80 passes for 554 yards, two TDs and two INTs while posting a favorable 92.4 passer rating. This preseason, he proved solid filling in for Brady who won't be eligible to rejoin the active roster until Oct. 3.
“New England...they’re going to survive," Simms told TSL at a CBS Media luncheon in Manhattan. “If they go 2-2 it won’t be the end of the world. If they go 1-3 it won’t be the end of the world. It won’t be great, but they are a resilient group. They are the most mentally tough team in the NFL. So they’re not going to let this derail them and... when Gronkowski is running down the field he’s not going, 'Oh, this is not Tom throwing it.' They don’t care."
Garoppolo has got weapons. He’s got an opportunity and if he does his job, he can flip four games of work into riches like Matt Cassel did in ‘08. Now is the time for the Pats to find out if Jimmy G is the future of a franchise that has been spoiled with a living legend at the helm for many a Sunday. There's a good chance he's just a stop gap until the 39-year-old golden boy returns to take one more crack at glory and in this case, vindication.