The New England Patriots made two straight Super Bowl appearances after trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers during the 2017 season.

The Pats fell just shy of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the 2017 campaign, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII despite an amazing championship performance by Tom Brady, and they were the last team standing to end the 2018 campaign, defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

But Max Kellerman still believes the Patriots made a mistake by trading Garoppolo to the 49ers, who will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2, as Brady regressed in 2019 and there now are questions surrounding New England’s quarterback situation with TB12 set to hit free agency this offseason.

“There’s an old expression in sports. Branch Rickey, who helped break the color barrier in baseball with Jackie Robinson and invented the minor league system, the farm system in baseball, used to say, ‘Trade ’em a year too early instead of a year too late,’ ” Kellerman said Tuesday on ESPN’s “First Take.”

Kellerman has long been calling for Brady’s downfall — awaiting the “cliff,” if you will — and has been made to look foolish by the Patriots QB on several occasions. So, he’s undoubtedly a little biased when it comes to this debate.

But there’s a real chance Brady leaves New England in the coming months, at which point the Patriots would need to scramble for a successor. The Niners, meanwhile, appear set at the quarterback position with Garoppolo at the helm, even if Jimmy G hasn’t needed to do much in San Francisco’s ongoing playoff run thanks to the team’s rushing attack and elite defense.

“What you’d be set up with now is a guy who held the clipboard for Tom Brady and learned under (Bill) Belichick and is completely integrated into the system, and you have your franchise quarterback, who by the way … resembles statistically — and in demeanor and in terms of his skill set — a young Tom Brady,” Kellerman argued. “People forget, when Brady came into the league and was winning Super Bowls with Belichick, he was a 24-touchdown, 12-interception, 3,500-yard — admittedly that meant a little more back then — quarterback who got you in field-goal range for the greatest field-goal kicker ever to help you win playoff games. That’s kind of what Garoppolo is now. He’s a game-manager who can come up big on third down and pilot a defensively oriented, run game-type team to the Super Bowl. That’s what just happened. That’s what the Patriots would have with him.”

Basically, while Garoppolo looked like a viable successor to Brady, the Patriots weren’t ready to move on from the latter seeing as how he still was performing at an MVP-caliber level at the time of the trade. It’s hard to argue with the decision based on the success the Patriots have continued to enjoy — this season’s wild-card round loss to the Tennessee Titans notwithstanding — but that’s not going to stop Kellerman from trying.

If nothing else, this debate makes Skip Bayless’ hypothetical scenario all the more fascinating.

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