You know the old saying “God works in mysterious ways”? Well, right now I think “Bill Belichick works in mysterious ways” seems a little more fitting.
In another year or two, everything about what the Patriots did in the 2018 NFL Draft will actually make sense. We will look back at it and laugh, thinking, my goodness, Bill Belichick should win a Nobel Prize or something. The man constantly has a plan in motion, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is something Pats fans have learned after 18 seasons with him.
But right now, as I sit here thinking about everything that unfolded in Dallas over the last few days, I’m dumbfounded. I can’t make sense out of Belichick’s complete lack of concern about the Patriots’ future quarterback situation. Given the solid crop of quarterbacks that were entering the draft, thousands of people, myself firmly being one of them, fully expected that the Patriots would select one of them. They could then spend the next year, maybe two years, grooming the youngster behind Tom Brady, who by that point would be well into his 40s.
Brady, the reigning MVP, turns 41 in a few months. Obviously, he’s the short term answer at quarterback for this team right now. He’s old, but he’s not dead. He’s still better than 90 percent of the QBs in the NFL, and at least for the 2018 season, the Patriots are still Super Bowl contenders with Brady at quarterback. But the Pats can’t count on this being the case for much more than another year, maybe two if they’re lucky.
The 2018 draft was the perfect chance to find the next guy. There were more than enough options to choose from, and Belichick could’ve had pretty much anyone he wanted other than Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen (only one or two of those guys will end up panning out anyway).
He could’ve chosen Louisville’s Lamar Jackson at No. 23 or No. 31, but he didn’t. I didn’t want Jackson, as I detailed after Baltimore drafted him at the end of the first round, but I would’ve embraced him had Belichick selected him. At least he would’ve been addressing the QB issue. I heavily pushed for drafting Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, if not late in the first round then definitely in the second round. Belichick passed on him too, repeatedly trading down. The Patriots traded out of their picks so frequently that it was almost irritating.
Correction: it wasn’t almost irritating. It was completely and totally 100 percent irritating. Apparently Belichick thought there was very little decent talent in the middle rounds.
As the draft continued on, the Patriots kept passing up one quarterback after another. Rudolph ended up falling to the Steelers in the third round, now the potential successor to Ben Roethlisberger in the Steel City (I may or may not have shed a tear). Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, who apparently had been on New England’s radar, eventually went to the Giants. Washington State’s Luke Falk, who had even drawn a few comparisons to Brady himself, went to the Titans at No. 199 overall, ironically the same number that Brady was drafted at in 2000.
But nothing from the Pats. At least not until the seventh round, when they selected quarterback Danny Etling from LSU. My immediate reaction after they made the pick was probably the same as most … Who the hell is Danny Etling?
I had never heard of Etling until the Patriots announced him as their first pick of the seventh round. But following the selection, I read up a little bit on him, including Pats Pulpit editor Rich Hill’s instant analysis. The kid enjoyed some success in two years at LSU, obviously playing against vicious defenses in the SEC, completing almost 60 percent of his passes and throwing 27 touchdowns opposed to just seven interceptions. But let’s be real; the chances are very slim that this guy’s going to take over as the long term successor to Brady. At best, he’ll maybe develop into a decent backup in the league.
In the meantime, the Patriots are left with a 41-year-old Brady, a journeyman backup in Brian Hoyer, and Etling. To this point, the post-Brady era has not been addressed, and it will be here much sooner than we want it to be. Maybe Belichick plans on looking at quarterbacks in the 2019 draft instead, but that gives that newbie one less year to learn behind Brady. Maybe Belichick is so fed up with how Brady and Robert Kraft thwarted his Jimmy Garoppolo plan that now he’s just trolling everybody, saying “fine, you can figure out your quarterback situation on your own. Eventually, I’ll just take my five rings and ride off into retirement.”
(OK, that’s probably not the case, but I just wanted to type it out.)
All I know is, we have Brady for the 2018 season. Maybe we have him for the 2019 season. Beyond that, who knows what the heck we have. For a guy who is always three steps ahead of everyone else, Belichick doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with finding this team’s next starting quarterback, and I just don’t get it.
Hopefully, he’s three steps (or more) ahead of me right now.