By Adriel “The Natural”
Could Tom Brady be finished in New England? Wait. Hear me out.
What do Joe Montana and Tom Brady have in common? Well for starters, they’re both considered by the masses to be two of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all-time. They both have four Super Bowl victories. They were both drafted in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Their similarities are many. However, there is one similarity that I could see coming to fruition once the 2016 NFL season begins. Just as Joe Montana finally lost his starting job to Steve Young, Tom Brady will lose his starting spot to Jimmy Garoppolo.
That’s right. I said it! Tom Brady will lose his starting job for the New England Patriots during the 2016 season. How blasphemous! How dare I say such a thing? Now hold on, before you start going crazy, hear me out.
In the preseason of the 1990 season, I was a young boy watching NFL football for the very first time. I wasn’t always a fan, but I knew of the big names; none bigger than Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. The San Francisco 49ers were the glamour team at that time as they exercised dominance throughout the 1980’s while ushering in the 1990’s. I was an 11-year old kid and I made a concerted effort to watch and learn the game. Starting off in the preseason, one thing stood out to me. Every time Joe Montana would leave the game, this guy named Steve Young would not only come in and play well, he would look, dare I say, even more dynamic than Joe. Now, it wasn’t as if Joe wasn’t playing well, it was just that to a novice like me, it seemed that there wasn’t much of a difference between the “greatest of all time” and his understudy.
Fast forward to the regular season. The 49ers got off to a blazing start. The team was clicking on all cylinders to the tune of a 14-2 record which was tops in the league. They were destined for another impressive run to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for them, the 1990 New York Giants happened and the 49ers were unceremoniously dismissed from the playoffs in the 1990 NFC Championship game. Joe Montana suffered a major injury that game. Joe was almost 35-years old at the time and obviously on the downside of his career. That was the beginning of the end for Joe Montana as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
What does this have to do with Tom Brady, you ask? No matter how great you are or how great you were, there will always come a time where we all will have to move on especially when it comes to sports; especially when it comes to the game of football.
Tom Brady had one of his greatest statistical seasons last year: 64.4%completion percentage, 4770 yards, 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, if you paid close attention to every Patriots game, it was easy to see that most of Tom Brady’s brilliance last year was due to the greatness of Rob Gronkowski and the elusiveness and guile of Julian Edelman. Brady got off to a blazing start in the 2015 season. He was on pace to destroy all his peers when it came to the MVP voting. Then, a funny thing happened. After 9 games, Julian Edelman was lost for the rest of the regular season due to a severe foot injury leaving Brady and the rest of the team to pick up the pieces. Brady was never the same quarterback after that. His numbers dropped significantly and it was clear to see how much he missed the security blanket called Julian Edelman.
Why is this significant? Because in the 2014 season Rob Gronkowski started off the season slow. He was deliberately eased back into things coming off major injuries to his knee, forearm and back. While he was being eased into things, Tom Brady struggled mightily. Not looking like the same quarterback we’ve come to expect, Brady and the New England Patriots got off to a mediocre start. They were 2-2 after the first four games. Once Gronk was cleared for full game participation, the Patriots went 10-2 the rest of the way, and they won the Super Bowl.
I’m saying all this to illuminate how now, more than ever, Tom Brady’s greatness is completely reliant on having his 2 most trusted weapons on the field at the same time. He can’t have one without the other. He must have both simultaneously in order to be great. No longer are the days where Tom Brady can make lemonade out of lemons. In Brady’s hay day he made guys like Troy Brown, Dion Branch, and Kevin Faulk into well-known names. Why? Because he was that great. As he’s gotten older and his arm strength and arm talent have dropped significantly he’s become entirely reliant on the all-pro receivers he now has at his disposal.
Fast forward to 2016. Brady has been suspended for the first four games because of Deflategate. Jimmy Garoppolo will be at the helm. There is only a small sample size, but every time I have seen this young man step on the football field, he has been impressive and more than competent even at such a young age.
Now in his third year in the league, he will be entrusted to hold down the fort until Brady comes back in week 5. It is my assertion, that if Jimmy Garoppolo plays well enough to lead the New England Patriots to at least a 3-1 record to start the season, he will remain the New England Patriots starting quarterback. Now when I say, if Garoppolo leads them to at least 3-1; I’m implying that if his play on the field is the primary reason for their success, he will remain the starter. Bill Belichick has been known to be as cutthroat as ever when it comes to his football team. He doesn’t care what you did before. He only cares what you can do now and in the future and in my estimation, the future will be Jimmy Garoppolo. I could be wrong and Belichick might go right back to Brady no matter how well Garoppolo does. But even so, the writing will be on the wall. Tom Brady, 39-years old, will be on his way out. Even though he might still have something left, he won’t have enough moving forward to be a better option at quarterback than Jimmy Garoppolo.
Adriel “The Natural” is a contributing writer for YourSitch.com