Veteran quarterbacks need not apply in New England. The Patriots have their quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo and need to trust him with the job.
At New England Patriots Training Camp, the quarterback situation is one of the most closely watched across the league. With Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of the 2016 NFL season, Jimmy Garoppolo has been named the starting quarterback during Brady’s suspension.
During that time, rookie Jacoby Brissett will be serving as the primary backup to Garoppolo, leaving some to ask if the Patriots should sign one of the remaining free agent quarterbacks for a veteran presence during Weeks 1-4 of the season.
This situation is vaguely similar to the discussions that were going on during the 2008 season when Tom Brady was injured and fourth-year quarterback Matt Cassel was named the starter. Many were clamoring for a veteran backup – there were even rumors that the Patriots were planning to bring in a veteran but decided not to. This is the same approach they need to take with the current situation.
When Cassel was named the starter, he had appeared in 14 career games prior to 2008. He had completed 22 of 39 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. In his two seasons, Garoppolo has gone 20-of-31 for 188 yards and one touchdown. Both lacked the ideal experience to take over for an all-time great, but both had the trust of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head coach Bill Belichick.
In 2008, the Patriots had Matt Gutierrez on their practice squad, elevating him to serve as the backup for Cassel. What they did not do is sign a veteran quarterback. This allowed Cassel to build confidence and not worry about losing his job to a veteran player. This same approach needs to be taken with Garoppolo. Not only does he have the benefit of getting full first-team preparation, but his time as the starter is defined to Weeks 1-4 of the season.
The Patriots do not have a Gutierrez on the roster, but they do have Brissett, who they spent a third round pick on in this year’s NFL Draft. Allowing him to learn the NFL game behind Brady (during Training Camp) and Groppolo will only strengthen the quarterback group in the short and long-term.
Allowing Garoppolo to have the confidence of being the starter with little resistance behind him will allow him to grow through training camp, giving him the confidence needed to win as a starter in the NFL. It also does not hurt that Garoppolo will be throwing the ball to Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelaman. Allowing Garoppolo to be the primary guy working with them will only lead to better results.
New England will obviously go back to Brady when Week 5 hits, but allowing for Garoppolo to work through his early career problems in training camp without the pressure of a veteran behind him on the depth chart is the right way to approach the situation.
This will also give the Patriots a chance to showcase Garoppolo’s talents to decide if he is the future once Brady retires (whenever that may be) or trade him to a quarterback-needy team. In the end, adding a veteran quarterback into the mix shows no clear benefit – and the New England Patriots should avoid it.