- The New England Patriots’ trading Jimmy Garoppolo this season was a resounding commitment to Tom Brady.
- An ESPN report published Friday revealed that coach Bill Belichick wanted to see Garoppolo succeed Brady one day but was ordered by management to trade him.
- Previous reports have said Brady viewed Garoppolo as a threat and was not helpful in mentoring him.
- Brady is now the Patriots’ present and future, winning a power struggle that seemed to have been simmering.
The situation with Brady and Garoppolo was untenable. Brady wanted to continue his career into his mid-40s, and Garoppolo, ready to become a starter but still sitting behind Brady, was set to hit free agency in 2018.
As a bombshell Friday report on the Patriots’ future by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham revealed, there were other factors at play, namely simmering tension between Brady and Garoppolo, even though the two quarterbacks were genial to each other.
It said – as previous reports had – that Belichick thought Garoppolo could eventually succeed Brady. However, according to Wickersham, it became clear that Garoppolo would not accept a contract extension to remain the backup.
Wickersham reported that Brady had been talking to the team’s owner, Robert Kraft, about continuing to play for the Patriots and that later, after a meeting, Kraft ordered Belichick to trade Garoppolo.
In some ways, this was a simmering situation that was always going to come to a head. Garoppolo’s and Brady’s timelines simply did not match.
Garoppolo was ready to start and didn’t want to back up Brady any longer. Brady, however, was not declining – and even for the NFL’s most ruthless organization, pushing out perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time for a promising but unproven backup would be too far.
An awkward and tough decision was always going to come, and the Patriots chose Brady.
Brady viewed Garoppolo as a threat
While it doesn’t sound as if Brady asked management to move Garoppolo, he apparently wanted the team to commit to his future.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. As far back as 2015, reports have said Brady viewed Garoppolo as a threat.
Ahead of Brady’s four-game suspension in the 2016 season for Deflategate, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Brady was paranoid of any other quarterback taking snaps for the Patriots.
“If you talk to people close to Brady, one thing he has feared for a long time is anyone taking a snap instead of him,” Rapoport said in 2015.
“Then he is going to see his future – the Patriots’ future, potentially – in Jimmy Garoppolo play,” he added. “And what if he’s good? Then it makes a very interesting decision for the Patriots next offseason.”
Rapoport said it was a situation Brady hoped to push off for a while.
According to Wickersham, Brady and Garoppolo were friendly, but Brady is “famously unhelpful to his backups,” neglecting to help Garoppolo with mechanics and footwork. Brady, it seemed, would not be a mentor to his future replacement.
During Brady’s suspension, Belichick gave a firm guarantee that Garoppolo would not replace Brady. However, according to Wickersham, during contract negotiations with Brady, Belichick had concerns about extending a 40-year-old quarterback, and his commitment to Brady wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
From Wickersham (emphasis ours): “Several times this past October, Brady met with Kraft to discuss playing longer. That same month, he also met with Belichick, who was skeptical of a long-term contract extension but was content to start Brady as long as he was the best quarterback.
When the Patriots traded Garoppolo in October, some were surprised that the famously strategic Belichick chose Brady over a 26-year-old potential star.
But as we’re learning, it most likely wasn’t because of a change of heart from Belichick – he wanted Garoppolo to be the future, but pressure from management, plus an awkward timeline, forced his hand.
Wickersham reported that after the trade, people around the Patriots noticed a more jovial Brady. One source said Brady had “won.”
Now Belichick’s job is to find an eventual replacement for Brady. Wickersham reported that Belichick took pride in Garoppolo’s promising start in San Francisco – a sign that he thought Garoppolo could have succeeded Brady.
Now, however, it’s Brady’s team. Power struggles are nothing new in sports, but it’s becoming clear since the Garoppolo trade that one had been unfolding within the Patriots for a while.