It’s the deadest time on the NFL calendar, but that certainly doesn’t mean there’s no Patriots news. Apparently Tom Brady is getting ready to abandon the team as he retires, and apparently Julian Edelman is arrogant and a total disgrace. Business as usual.
Time for a distraction. Let’s keep on counting down the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2017.
The list so far:
20. Back-to-back touchdowns before the half against the New York Jets help the Patriots secure the #1 Seed in the AFC.
19. A one-handed Dion Lewis grab is pretty much the only thing that goes right against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
18. The Patriots pick up James Harrison.
17. A safety and a strip sack to help secure the Number 1 Seed in the AFC against the New York Jets.
16. Gronk’s inner caveman finally reveals itself and gets him suspended.
15. Brandin Cooks follows Gronk into the end zone...and rides him out.
14. A throw off the back foot leads to an epic Gronk touchdown against the New Orleans Saints.
13. Tom Brady hits Brandin Cooks for a 64 yard TD against the Oakland Raiders.
12. A goal line stand ends with a huge stuff on 4th and 3 to preserve the shutout against the Atlanta Falcons.
11. A bizarre fumble turns a touchdown into a touchback against the New York Jets.
10. Rob Gronkowski hauls in a spectacular one-handed TD grab to even the score against the Buffalo Bills.
9. Stephon Gilmore gets airborne to break up a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game.
Number 8 is...well, I’ll just let this one speak for itself.
8. The Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo.
Every Patriots fan who didn’t know who Jimmy Garoppolo was received an absolutely amazing introduction to him during the start of the 2016 season, where he was able to win a primetime road game against the then-NFC favorite Arizona Cardinals to open up the season. He then went off like a man possessed against the Miami Dolphins the following week, throwing for 232 yards and 3 TDs before going down with a collarbone injury. Jimmy G won our hearts in filling in for Tommy B, and while Brady came back to light the league on fire and complete a championship comeback for the ages, we never forgot what Garoppolo did with the opportunity he was given.
Which, of course, led to some interesting conversations as 2017 got underway. Brady was still playing at an extremely high level, and Jimmy G was entering into the final year of his rookie deal, meaning he was about to become an unrestricted free agent. The Patriots weren’t going to be able to match the kind of money he was going to fetch on the open market - all a QB needs to do in the NFL to get a monster contract is start, and win, one game - and the franchise tag was going to cost upwards of $26 million, an absurd amount of money to spend on a guy who will be holding a clipboard all season (do QBs still hold clipboards? Maybe we need to switch that cliche to “tablet”). And even with the franchise tag, they couldn’t guarantee Garoppolo any playing time, and he was eager to make his own way. It just wasn’t feasible for the Patriots to retain Brady and Garoppolo for the future without crippling their cap and going against the methods that built their dynasty.
So...what to do?
Some wanted the Patriots to find a way to make it work. Some wanted the Patriots to trade Jimmy G for a king’s ransom. There were even some that suggested that maybe it was time to trade Brady. It was a lively discussion that dominated the airwaves and message boards as we all waited around for the regular season to be over so we could get to the AFC Championship Game already.
Then, on October 31st, 2017, the news broke: the Patriots had made a move. Jimmy Garoppolo was on his way to San Francisco. In return, the Patriots would receive the 49ers 2nd round pick in 2018. At 0-9, it looked to be at the very top of the 2nd round.
Needless to say, the internet EXPLODED. Leading the charge, shockingly, were Patriots fans, absolutely furious over the return New England got. After all, everyone seemed to have numerous credible sources that other teams were willing to offer multiple first round picks for Garoppolo and that Belichick got fleeced. Cleveland was willing to give up seven first rounders, nine seconds, the controlling stake of the franchise, and free hot dogs for life in exchange for a quarterback who, at the time, had played five and a half quarters of professional football. How could Belichick do this? What was he thinking?
There were some who understood the move, who made the rationale that Belichick did right by a kid who did everything asked of him and sent him to a franchise in which he could succeed. He also left the AFC, meaning that if he did go on to be a superstar, at least they would only see him once every four years. And since there wasn’t a single confirmed report anywhere that New England had better offers from anybody, a good number of fans accepted the move and wished Garoppolo well. But these folks were in the minority. Hoo boy did the fans get riled up over this one.
They should have traded him earlier!
They should have kept him!
They should have gotten way more for him!
There were also reports about discontent at One Patriot Place. Belichick wanting to keep Garoppolo. Brady feeling threatened by the young buck. Robert Kraft stepping in and vetoing Belichick for the first time ever. The entire team hanging on by a thread.
You know you’re a Patriots fan when trading a backup quarterback for a second round pick becomes national news and represents one of the biggest injustices you’ve suffered that season.
Garoppolo went on to win his first five starts as a 49er and looks well positioned to be a success in this league. Hindsight is always 2020, and at the end of the day absolutely nobody knows what went on behind closed doors, but I still believe today what I believe now: Belichick kept Garoppolo through the first half of the season as an insurance policy in case Brady started to falter, but when Tommy B played as well as he did Belichick had no choice. He got a decent offer from a front office he liked, saw the chance to get Garoppolo out of the conference and set up to do well, and so he pulled the trigger. Maybe he could have gotten more from Cleveland, but maybe he didn’t want Jimmy G in the AFC. And maybe he didn’t want to condemn the kid to one season of 1-15 before the next 1st round pick they spend on a quarterback comes in and takes his job. Who knows. But the fact that this blew up the way that it did for sure lands it at Number 8.
A roster move the Patriots make, one that few people see coming, ends up on this list every year. However, never before has it made the Top 10, and I don’t even think I have to make a case for it. This trade may very well represent the day the NFL changed forever. Maybe not. Only time will tell.
Check out some Jimmy Garoppolo highlights here.