Patriots

Brady convinced Garoppolo - not Patriots - that it was time to move on

Brady convinced Garoppolo - not Patriots - that it was time to move on

Tom Brady won. What did you expect?

Forget about Mo Lewis’ watershed hit on Drew Bledsoe. The real reason Brady got the chance to become the best quarterback in NFL history is because Bledsoe fell asleep at the switch. He thought being the quarterback of the Patriots was a birthright.

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Brady had replaced Bledsoe before Drew even knew what happened. Brady made damn sure Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t going to do to him what he did to Bledsoe.

Of course, the Patriots did Brady a favor – it was never a guerrilla attack on his job. When Bill Belichick announced after drafting Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014 that “we all knew” Brady’s age and contract situation, that was like banging trash can lids together over Brady’s head in the middle of the night.

He’s coming. What are you gonna do about it?

What Brady’s done at the ages of 37, 38, 39 and 40 is throw 113 touchdowns and 20 picks in 52 regular season games while going 41-11. He went 7-1 in the playoffs, threw 20 touchdowns and nine picks and in the one playoff game he lost, withstood a merciless beating from the Broncos that would have left every one of the other “elite” quarterbacks in the league curled in the fetal position.

Garoppolo’s presence inspired a quarterback who’d been really good and often great from 2009 through 2013 to go incredible. All the time.

But it’s telling to realize who really blinked. Garoppolo.

In the first hours after the trade, my thinking was that the Patriots had seen enough to decide, “Yeah, he’s not getting any worse. Let’s make a move with Jimmy while we can.”

But the other evidence doesn’t support that. While the Patriots decided not to franchise Garoppolo because of the cap implications that would create, they did try to extend his contract. As Phil Perry pointed out to me Tuesday morning, “It’s Garoppolo that put up the white flag. Why sign an extension when the old guy looks the way he does?”

And maybe this is where Brady and Garoppolo sharing representation – Don Yee and Steve Dubin – helped both quarterbacks.

Even if Garoppolo agreed to the most lucrative contract a backup has ever signed here in New England, it would never approach what he’d make in starter’s money elsewhere. Garoppolo is getting paid. And he was wise to Brady’s true plans (which is to play until the wheels fall off or he “sucks” as he’s stated) because Brady’s agents know there are no plans for Brady to wrap it up.

Also, because Garoppolo’s leverage was indicating to potential suitors (i.e. Cleveland) that he wouldn’t do re-sign long term if he didn’t like the situation, the Patriots weren’t in the driver’s seat completely when it came to dealing him.

Belichick seemed to indicate as much on Tuesday.

“It is just not sustainable given the way that things are set up,” said Belichick on a conference call. “Definitely not something we wanted to walk away from and I felt we rode it out as long as we could. We’ve, over a period of time, explored every option possible to sustain it but, at this point, it felt like we had to make a decision. It’s a very complex situation on multiple levels. This is really the last window that we had and we did what we felt was best for the team.”

Being in the same locker room, meeting room and sideline with Brady for the past three-plus seasons, nobody had a better chance to bear witness to Brady’s greatness. If we can all recognize how maniacal Brady is in preparation and how possessive he is of his position, don’t you think Garoppolo got the same message?

The Patriots wanted Garoppolo to succeed Brady. He didn’t want to wait. Brady reminded him every day he was going to make it near-impossible to beat him out.

Brady smothered Garoppolo’s chances. Killed them in their crib. Garoppolo actually deserves immense credit for developing like he did behind Brady and not cowering. Make no mistake, the coaching staff gave him every chance to develop and they wouldn’t have been talking about bridge extensions if they truly wanted him gone, but Garoppolo’s own competitiveness is as important to his success as his quick release.

The upshot of all this is that Brady beat back a challenge that the Patriots didn’t think he could. No disrespect. And – judging from Belichick’s telling answer to a question during Tuesday’s conference call – his personal jury remains out on Brady playing to 45, never mind 42 (which would be the end of Brady’s current contract).

"I'd say when a player gets to a certain point in his career...at some point it becomes year to year,” Belichick said. “The expectations aren't over a long period of time or a longer window like they would be with a younger player coming into the league when you look at a player's growth from 3-5 years...When you get players that have reached a certain point, then it's their ability to maintain, although they can work to improve on little things, techniques, skills like that...But it's more of a maintenance and maintaining that high level of play, their maximum level of play, wherever that level is that they've reached and trying to sustain that. Trying to predict that, I don't think it's easy. It's not something I try to do a lot of. I try to look at it year to year. I learned that a long time ago. I'd say that advice has served me well."

Which means that – for Brady – the fight to keep his job as Patriots starter isn’t over. But this battle has been won.

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Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski both sat out of the entirety of Wednesday's practice at Gillette Stadium. 

Brady is dealing with an Achilles injury, per the injury report released by the Patriots. The Boston Herald has reported that Brady will play despite the issue. It's unclear when exactly Brady suffered the injury, but Brady was hit low by Raiders pass-rusher Khalil Mack in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and Mack was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty.

Gronkowski, like teammate David Andrews, is dealing with an illness. Patrick Chung, who left Sunday's game briefly, has an ankle issue. 

Here's the full injury report for both the Patriots and Dolphins . . . 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
C David Andrews (illness)
QB Tom Brady (Achilles)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
S Patrick Chung (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (illness)
WR Chris Hogan (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (knee)
TE Marellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring)
DT Malcom Brown (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Stephone Anthony (quadriceps)
G Jermon Bushrod (foot)
QB Jay Cutler (concussion)
DE William Hayes (back)
T Laremy Tunsill (illness)

FULL PARTICIPATION
RB Senorise Perry (knee)
S Michael Thomas (knee)

 

Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

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Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

If you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer. The notion that a great player’s candidacy has to have some kind of gestation period before it can be deemed induction-worthy is just plain cruel.

And if you think “cruel” is an overstatement, consider Ken Stabler. Three times a Hall of Fame finalist, Snake had to croak before Pro Football Hall of Fame voters decided it was time to put him in Canton.

There are borderline guys whose candidacies need to marinate. There are players whose contributions to an era take on greater meaning as time passes. You could make the case Stabler was one of those.

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You could also make the case that too many HOF voters in each of the major sports get caught up in a “guardian at the gate” mentality, puffing out birdlike chests until they align with swollen stomachs and declaring an athlete’s not getting inducted on HIS watch.

Or until said athlete’s served time in purgatory and either begs for induction or says, “F--- it, I don’t care if I get in at this point anyway.

Which brings me to Terrell Owens and how his HOF candidacy will impact Randy Moss.

Moss was a better player than T.O. Historic. The second he entered the league in 1998, he was probably one of the five best players in the league at any position. Owens took a while. He didn’t make a Pro Bowl until his fifth NFL season.

Moss was a technician and a savant. Owens just wrestled the game to the ground with brute force.

When measuring what a player “means” to the NFL and its fans, a reasonable Moss comp is Allen Iverson. They were iconic. Owens? Dwight Howard. Where T.O. felt needy, desperate and narcissistic. Moss just didn’t GAF.

And that’s where some voters start to rub their hands together and scheme.

How can we exact revenge for perceived crimes against football and propriety? Make 'em sweat. Use incidents, moments and comments as cudgels and pound penance out of them.

Even though Moss was better than T.O., that doesn’t mean Owens is borderline. Owens is second in all-time yards (Moss is third), eighth in receptions (Moss is 15th), third in touchdowns (Moss is second) and was a five-time All-Pro (Moss was a four-time All-Pro).

The only justification for voters keeping T.O. out the past two years was that he was a prick.

Few – if any - of his ex-teammates say that he should be kept out of the HOF for that. But scores of people in the media, ex-players and league lobbyists do think he should be kept out. At least until he learns his lesson, or whatever.

Owens’ narcissism chewed at the fabric of franchises he was a part of, is the contention. That’s why he played for five teams. That’s why he only played in one Super Bowl. That’s why tears weren’t shed when he signed someplace else.

Moss also played for five teams. He also played in just one Super Bowl (like Owens, Moss’ ’07 Patriots lost though Moss – like Owens – did his part to win). And tears weren’t shed too often when Moss left either.

Check this Tom Brady quote from September 2010. It came just days before Moss began shooting his way out of New England because he was unhappy the team wouldn’t extend his deal.

"There's only one Randy Moss that will ever play this game," Brady said. "He's the greatest, probably, downfield receiver in the history of the NFL. Those catches that he makes, where you guys see he runs 65 yards down the field, you throw it and he just runs and catches it. That's impossible to do.And I ask him, 'How did you do that?' And he says, 'I don't know, man. I've been doing it for a long time.' He has some special skills that nobody's really gifted with." 

That weekend, Moss gave his “This probably will be my last year here as a Patriot…” press conference after a season-opening win over the Bengals. The next week, he caught two of 10 passes that Brady threw his way in a loss to the Jets. One of the passes was a touchdown pass where he blew past Darrelle Revis and made a one-handed pull. Two of the other passes were picked off and Moss was non-competitive. After that, he was effectively frozen out of the offense and was traded after Week 4, less than a month after Brady accurately described him as the greatest downfield receiver in the history of the NFL.

Stuff like that, nudging a traffic cop for a half-block with his car stating “I’ll play when I want to play…,” fake-mooning the Lambeau Stadium crowd, saying he still smoked weed “once in a blue moon” – all those occasions will be aggregated and used as cudgels used to beat down Moss’ candidacy just as the driveway situps are used to beat down T.O.’s.

Whole bunch of voters will hand-wring about what it all meeeaaaannnnnsssss if they sweep Moss in on the first ballot after keeping T.O. out. And then wonder if T.O. should go in before Moss, after Moss or with him. Meanwhile, they’ll rush to get Ray Lewis in line for his gold jacket with nary a word about disappearing white suits 

The whole “between the lines is all that matters” defense.

Randy Moss belongs in the Hall of Fame. ASAP.