FOXBORO, Mass. — Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady’s complex business relationship is the stuff that imaginative and rabble-rousing radio hosts dream about.
There hasn’t been a single indication through the two-plus years Garoppolo has been backing up the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback that there’s a divide between them. But that doesn’t stop the trolls of the radio waves from speculating as such.
It is an odd situation, however. Garoppolo, 24, will start the first four games of the 2016 season while Brady, 39, serves his four-game Deflategate suspension. Brady is signed through 2019, and Garoppolo is scheduled to hit free agency in 2018, but because of their age gap, impressive performances from the younger QB could cause some conversations within the Patriots’ organization about who should be the franchise signal-caller in 2018 and beyond.
Those conversations are made much more difficult by the fact that Brady, perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history, hasn’t shown a single sign of slowing down.
For now, Garoppolo must simultaneously take leadership over the team while Brady looks over his shoulder. Brady says he’s treating his summer business as usual, but one can’t help but see him as an almost 12th wheel in the Patriots’ offense as head coach Bill Belichick repeats that preparing Garoppolo for the start of the season is the “priority.” Brady hasn’t suited up for a preseason game, and he was excused from practice Sunday and Monday. It seems unlikely that would have happened if Brady wasn’t about to miss the first quarter of the season.
At the same time, Brady continued to take first-team reps throughout training camp and will be handed to the keys to the offense in Week 5, regardless of how Garoppolo plays.
“It’s a tough situation at times, but you just — you can’t worry about that too much,” Garoppolo said Wednesday of taking leadership while deferring to Brady. “It’s one of those things where if you start worrying about that, you can’t focus on whatever it is — your reads, your checks, whatever it may be. You just have to go about your business the same way you always have.
“I’m not trying to do something crazy that I’ve never done before. I’m trying to be myself and do what I do.”
Brady is helping Garoppolo prepare for the regular season, but he has seen firsthand that a younger quarterback can unseat an older one. He did it to Drew Bledsoe, though it does seem a bit absurd to compare the situations since the talent level between Brady and Bledsoe is wide. Brady has a permanent chip on his shoulder, however, so he might not see it that way.
“We have a ton of conversations on a day-in and day-out basis,” Garoppolo said. “We’re together, like 24/7. But he’s been helpful this whole way, whether it’s encouragement, helping me with little things here and there. He’s been nothing but help, and I thank him for that.”
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images