Barring what would be one of the most absurd cases in U.S. Supreme Court history, Jimmy Garoppolo will begin this season as the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback.
And you know what? That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Yes, whenever you have a quarterback like Tom Brady on your roster, you obviously want to have him on the field as much as possible. But with the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday denying Brady’s latest attempt to have his four-game Deflategate suspension overturned, that option likely will be off the table until Week 5.
So the Patriots are left with Garoppolo, who outside of 11 garbage-time appearances and a handful of preseason games hasn’t yet had a chance to show what he can do at the NFL level. That’s a question the Patriots would prefer to have answered sooner rather than later.
Garoppolo, a second-round draft pick in 2014, is under contract with New England through the next two seasons. With Brady, who signed a two-year extension in March and will turn 39 next month, locked up for the next four seasons, the Patriots need to know what they have in their 26-year-old backup, either as their QB of the future or as a potential trade chip.
This is as good a time as ever for Garoppolo to show them. He impressed during organized team activities and minicamp, exhibiting quick, sound decision-making and appearing to have a much stronger grasp of New England’s complex offense than he had in the previous two offseasons.
Granted, those practices were just guys running around in helmets and shorts, but to those who have watched him throughout his young NFL career, the improvement was noticeable.
And then there’s this: The Patriots are good enough to win at least two or three of their first four games regardless of who starts under center. The Arizona Cardinals and their swarming defense will be a tough out on the road in Week 1, but even a Garoppolo-led Pats team should be favored in Weeks 2 through 4 — home games against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins and Bills have combined to win just two games in Foxboro since 2006, and the Texans are relying on their own largely unproven quarterback — albeit one who’s being paid quite a bit more than Garoppolo is.
There’s still a chance the Patriots won’t have to worry about any of this. Brady reportedly plans to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court, and if the court agrees to hear a case or grants him a stay, he likely will be allowed to play the entire 2016 season.
Many prominent legal experts have said that outcome is highly unlikely, however, meaning it almost certainly will be Jimmy G time at Gillette Stadium. And while Garoppolo hasn’t started a game since his senior year at Eastern Illinois, having to trot him out there in Week 1 actually might help the Patriots more than it hurts them.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images