Patriots

Making sense of the Jimmy Garoppolo stunner

Making sense of the Jimmy Garoppolo stunner

Pried your jaw off the floor? Returned your eyeballs to their sockets? Let's get to the questions that are flying around now that the Patriots have sent Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers.

Why now?

The presumption has been that the Patriots would franchise Garoppolo at the end of the season, then deal him. Even though the $24 million franchise cost for a quarterback was prohibitive, the Patriots would employ some imaginative accounting and find a way to fit Garoppolo under the cap until they could move him. But the way it was shaping up, the franchise/trade option would have tied the Patriots hands in free agency. Multiple restructures and/or releases were going to be necessary and it would have put the Patriots behind in free-agent pursuit because Garoppolo would still be on the books.

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What about the bounty they could have had?

A second-round pick? That's all? A player who some forecasted could be worth two first-round picks or more only pulls a second-round pick in exchange for his services? That feels like a major sacrifice by the Patriots. And what did they get in exchange? If there truly were multiple first-round picks on the table for Garoppolo in April and now, six months later, all they got from him was a few preseason appearances and eight games of back up duty, that's not what anyone would be able to call value. Jacoby Brissett could have just as easily done what Garoppolo has been doing since the beginning of September. I could've done what Garoppolo's been doing. This to me is what is most confusing. The franchise that has so often hoarded draft picks and spoken about value just left a gorgeous asset on their front lawn with a "Make an Offer" sign on the windshield. 

What does it mean for Brady?

With Jimmy G. there will be no showdown at noon for the starting quarterback position. All the time we spent, all the air we blew, every keystroke on every article and email that presaged Tom Brady's famous final scene is now for naught. Brady wins. He is signed through 2019 at which point he'll be 42 years old. The Patriots almost certainly won't move on from him before then (I've been wrong before) and he will then have the luxury of deciding if he wants to continue past his 20th NFL season. At that point, Rob Gronkowski's and Julian Edelman's contracts will also be up. It has always seemed a likely time for a dismount.

What did we learn? 

For more than a year the Patriots have been considering the economic wisdom of franchising Garoppolo and keeping Brady. That was definitely on the table. But while there were conversations with Cleveland that were reported around the draft, it's reasonable now to doubt that what they were offering was as generous as people believed. Or if it was as concrete. This was the last chance the Patriots had to trade Garoppolo before they had to either franchise him or lose him. After 4 PM Tuesday, he was walking for nothing or costing them $24 million. We all know how shrewd Bill Belichick is. Did he just get exponentially dumber over the last six months? Doubtful. There will be a lot of reasonable puzzling as to whether the Patriots got enough for Jimmy. In trade compensation, probably not. All they got was what they gave up. The second round pick. But when you think of what he represented: The ghost of Brady's football future - Younger, faster, more handsome. His presence kicked Brady into overdrive. And an unimaginable three-season stretch which included two Super Bowl wins ensued. In some ways, Jimmy G. was one of the most important Patriots of the Bellichick era.

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996, died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43. 

Bill Belichick coached Glenn as an assistant with the Patriots during Glenn's rookie season. He was later Glenn's head coach in 2000 and 2001. Belichick traded Glenn to the Packers before the 2002 season after a tumultuous run in New England that involved legal trouble, injuries and clashes with the coaching staff.

During a conference call with reporters soon after the news of Glenn's death was published, Belichick remembered Glenn for his natural physical ability and "a good heart."

"I was pretty close with Terry," Belichick said, "and his rookie season was my first year here in '96, and so I had a lot of interaction with him and other people that were involved in his life and his upbringing separate from the Patriots. Terry's a very smart individual. Had a lot of, obviously, a lot of physical skill and talent. Could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. And I think he was deep down inside a good person with good intentions and, you know, a good heart. Obviously it's very unfortunate. Very unfortunate passing. I mean, it's a sad day. Sad news."

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiancee at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.