Alec, I'm really excited to watch the quarterbacks this preseason because this will be our first glimpse at a potential life after Tom Brady. The Patriots have invested draft capital in a back-up quarterback year after year for this exact moment- when Brady would be on the sideline- and this is the first time it is bearing fruit.
I think Jimmy Garoppolo made serious strides last preseason and his command of the offense improved, and now he's going to get some time with the first team offense. How do you think the Patriots will divide the first and second team reps with Brady and Garoppolo and will that affect the preseason games?
This is as close to a "quarterback controversy" as we've seen in almost two full decades, so great call starting out with this one. It's obviously the job of any backup quarterback to be ready to step in at a moment's notice, so Jimmy G should 100% be ready to go here.
Furthermore, since his role as the Week 1 starter has been all but a certainty since the 2nd Circuit overturned Judge Berman's ruling, the coaching staff has likely been preparing for a Garoppolo-led offense for some time now. Because of that, I wouldn't be surprised if Brady and Garoppolo's share of first team reps is more even that you'd initially expect, and we may even see them platooning for the first few quarters of each preseason game - maybe Garoppolo gets a drive, then Brady gets a drive, and we go back and forth until Brissett is brought in to close things out.
It's obviously important to give Brady time with the starters, as it will undoubtedly be his show in Week 5, but Garoppolo will need as much help as he can get as he gets ready for his first ever NFL start, on the road, in primetime, against one of the NFL's best defenses (and my NFC Super Bowl pick), and Belichick will 100% give Jimmy as many reps as he thinks he needs.
My real question is how the other offensive players will respond - everyone is saying all the right things, but there's a big difference between catching passes from one of the all-time greats and a guy about to make his first start. If Garoppolo struggles early, do you think there will be some grumbling around the locker room?
I don't think so because there's nothing the players can really do in that scenario. There's going to be a lot of room for forgiveness in the first week against the Cardinals and their great defense, there's going to be some leeway against the Dolphins in Garoppolo's second start, and then a short week against the Texans. By the time the players would get fed up with an awful Garoppolo would be right in line with the return of Brady to the lineup.
I would expect the veteran leaders on the team- whether it's Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski or Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich- to step in and show the team how to get behind Garoppolo even if he struggles. Although all bets are off if he plays so poorly that the Patriots have to throw Brissett on the field.
In our podcast you explained how you think the coaching staff will game plan with Garoppolo- do you ever think the Patriots will put the offense on his shoulders in the first four games?
Ironically, the one contest where the game plan might make the most sense to rely heavily on the QB is the first one - which also represents the toughest matchup of the first quarter of the season by far.
Establishing the run against that Cardinals defensive line is no easy task, and a strong secondary that gives a lot of zone/man hybrid looks is best countered by pre-snap audibles and calling the play at the line based on what the defense is showing. Does Garoppolo have football IQ to do that effectively? Can the coaching staff adjust on the fly if what they implement isn't working in a manner that Garoppolo will be able to execute? Only time will tell.
Ultimately, though, I think that there is enough talent on the field and enough expertise on the sidelines that Jimmy G is going to be fine. They drafted him high for a reason, he has had several years in the system, and he'll be as prepared as he can possibly be for what could easily be his audition for a big payday. If that doesn't motivate him to do everything in his power to do well, nothing will.