New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is currently serving a four game suspension for deflating footballs. If you are a Patriots fan, odds are you believe that “Deflategate” is a witch-hunt orchestrated by National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell to take down one of the league’s best organizations. If you’re a fan of any other team in the American Football Conference East, odds also are that you don’t know how or why, but Brady isn’t playing the first four games of the season—and you’re not asking any questions.
This suspension has led to an interesting situation in terms of the quarterback position for the Pats. Brady has been their franchise quarterback since 2001. Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t had to worry about who was taking the snaps in 15 years—excluding in 2008 when Brady suffered from foot injuries. That all changed at the beginning of this season—except that it really didn’t.
One huge theme that Belichick preaches to his team is the phrase “next man up.” When one guy goes down, the guy behind him gets his chance to do the job. It’s the Patriot way. Cue Patriots’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The 6 foot 2 inches 226-pound player out of Eastern Illinois University was the next man up to take Brady’s spot. Those are some of the biggest shoes to fill in the history of the game, and he did just that.
Against the Arizona Cardinals and the Miami Dolphins, Garoppolo threw for 496 yards and four touchdowns for a total quarterback rating of 119. This is practically unheard of for any quarterback in his first two games.
By the second quarter of the Miami game during week two, however, things worsened for the Patriots. Garoppolo suffered an AC joint sprain while playing against the Miami Dolphins. The “next man up” was third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the first black quarterback to start in Patriots franchise history.
Brissett came into the game against the Miami Dolphins and did exactly what he needed to do. He held his own and allowed the Patriots’ running game and defense to take over, leading to another Patriots win.
Week three was much of the same. Brissett completed more passes than not, and ended with a respectable passer rating of over 70. This, however, is where it gets interesting. Team doctors reported that Brissett suffered an injury to his right thumb in the 27-0 win.
As one would expect, the media was all over this. Reporters and analysts have made speculations ranging from signing a new quarterback to get them through their next game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Oct. 2 to putting in wide receiver Julian Edelman, who played QB in high school, under center. If winning a game with Edelman at QB doesn’t scream “Patriots,” then I don’t know what does.
It seems that neither of those options have any actual legitimacy. The Patriots say they’re only going to sign another quarterback as a “last resort,” leading experts to believe that their efforts are being focused on ensuring that Garoppolo, Brissett or both are ready to go against the Bills. This seems to be the case—but only time will tell.
The only thing that seems to be for certain is that Brady will be on a mission week five, and the whole league should keep their heads up. The only thing more dangerous than the Patriots is the Patriots with Brady, and he’s got something to prove.