Patriots

Garoppolo on first win: 'A lot of emotions rolling'

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Garoppolo on first win: 'A lot of emotions rolling'

Jimmy Garoppolo tried to sleep on the late-night plane ride home from Arizona back home, but he couldn't. The excitement of his first win as a starting quarterback made it hard for him to wind down so he tried to get a little advanced scouting and got to work Miami, New England's Week 2 opponent.

"I tried to sleep a little bit on the flight, but I really couldn't," he told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday. "I'm mixed up between I'm tired [and] I got a lot of adrenaline going on in me. It's a lot of emotions rolling."

Garoppolo was able to keep those emotions in check a few hours earlier on the University of Phoenix turf, completing 24-of-33 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown in his team's 23-21 win over the Cardinals. He lost a fumble that led to an Arizona score, but otherwise, he showed poise when he needed to -- particularly on the game-winning drive. 

The third-year signal-caller hit on back-to-back third-down throws in the fourth quarter to help get Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski into field-goal range where he made the go-ahead boot. The first came on a third-and-15 play, where Garoppolo used his athleticism to scramble briefly before finding Danny Amendola deep down the field for a 32-yard pickup. 

"The line did a great job, first of all, giving me that time," Garoppolo said. "Third-and-15, you got to let your guys get down the field and Danny found the opening in the zone. It was a great job by him. He made it a pretty easy throw for me and he made a nice catch too, so it was a good play all the way around."

The next came in a more managable down and distance -- it was third-and-three at the Arizona 41 -- but it still required a well-executed throw and catch despite good coverage from the Cardinals secondary. Garoppolo threaded a pass through a tight window on a slant for running back James White that picked up seven yards and got the Patriots into an area where they had a much more comfortable shot at a field goal. 

LeGarrette Blount's 13-yard run on third-and-11 made the kick even simpler, but the pitch-and-catch between Garoppolo and White earned a nod from coach Bill Belichick after the game. 

"That was a great throw," Belichick said, "and a great catch in really tight coverage."

Garoppolo was helped in some ways by a quick-hitting game plan that both helped neutralize the Cardinals pass-rush and highlighted his strengths, but he made the throws when he needed to, including one early that allowed him to play with the lead. 

He admitted he was "amped" before the game -- he was snorting smelling salts before kickoff like a pig at a trough -- but fought off nerves to hit a 37-yard bucket-throw to Chris Hogan on New England's first drive. That pass opened up the scoring and proved that he was able to handle a big moment on a national stage in a hostile environment.

"This is awesome. I don’t even have words to express what this probably means to the whole team," Hogan said. "Coming out here, playing on the road in a tough environment against a really good team. We were able to really execute out there and just battle the entire four quarters. I am just happy for everyone in here, and Jimmy. This is huge."

Hogan wasn't the only one who felt that way. Garoppolo left the field ecstatic. Football in hand, he was nearly tackled by team chaplain Jack Easterby who gave him a bear hug as he headed back to the Patriots locker room. Eventually the game ball made it to Garoppolo's parents who were in town to see their son make his first professional start.

"They’re taking it back to Chicago with them," Garoppolo told WEEI. "We’ll see where they put it. That might be my first game ball. We didn’t do game balls in college, because at 1-AA you don’t have that many footballs. You only get about five a season, so you’ve got to make them count. So I think that was my first one, actually."

With the way he performed in one of the most difficult tests the Patriots will face all season -- not just in the first four games without Tom Brady -- it's a good bet that it won't be his last. 

Cam Newton, Julian Edelman joke about Patriots' playbook on Instagram

Cam Newton, Julian Edelman joke about Patriots' playbook on Instagram

Before Cam Newton suits up for the New England Patriots, he has some homework to do. And he's already opened his textbook.

The veteran quarterback, who reportedly signed a one-year contract with New England in late June, shared a photo Tuesday via Instagram of himself with a cup of coffee and what appears to be the Patriots' playbook.

"This s--- calculus!!" Newton joked.

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The Patriots have a notoriously complex playbook, and it appears Newton is finding that out after nine seasons in Carolina.

Our Tom E. Curran reported there's "no concern" in New England that Newton won't master his new offense, though, and the 31-year-old QB already digging into his playbook helps explain that confidence.

Newton also tagged Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, the team's longest-tenured offensive player (not counting special teamer Matthew Slater). Edelman responded on Instagram with his own acknowledgment that figuring out New England's playbook is like decoding a tricky math problem.

If Newton can return to full health after undergoing offseason foot surgery and pick up the offense quickly, that should add up to a successful season for the three-time Pro Bowler and 2015 NFL MVP.

Patrick Mahomes contract will be an albatross for dynasty-chasing Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes contract will be an albatross for dynasty-chasing Chiefs

“We’re chasing a dynasty.”

That’s how Patrick Mahomes closed his ode of gratitude after signing the richest contract in pro sports history.

Of course you are, Patrick. You and everyone else.

But are you chasing “a” dynasty? Do you just want to be mentioned along with the Packers, Steelers, Niners, Cowboys and Patriots, the only dynasties of the Super Bowl era?

Or are you using chasing as in following? As in the dynasty that came immediately before you? Specifically, New England. The only dynasty of the salary cap era.

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Because if you’re chasing the Patriots, modeling yourself after the Patriots, thinking you and the Chiefs might be the Patriots and go to four Super Bowls in one decade and five in the next, you and your team just made a fundamental mistake. You went “pig at the trough.”

That phrase is one I heard from key folks in the Patriots organization several times in the early 2000s. Tom Brady? Not a pig at the trough when it came to contract time. Peyton Manning? Pig at the trough.

What difference does it make?

Without a piggish quarterback, you can still go 11-5 because there’s talent all over the roster. The Patriots did that in 2008. But when you have to feed and feed and feed that position? The roster gets so thin elsewhere that – without the quarterback – a team might go, say, 2-14 after nine straight seasons of double-digit wins as the Colts did in 2011 without Manning.

This isn’t to say that the Chiefs did the wrong thing in signing Mahomes. Business-wise, they win. And Mahomes wins as well. But lack of funds because of fat cap hits will inevitably make the on-field product suffer and make the chase for a dynasty that much harder.

You can’t blame the Hunt family.

Mahomes is the most important and impactful player in the NFL.

What he authored in the 2019 playoffs is unprecedented - erasing a 24-0 deficit and winning 51-31 in the Divisional Playoffs, going on a 35-7 run in the AFCCG to erase a 10-point deficit then score 21 unanswered in the fourth to erase another 10-point deficit in the Super Bowl. All that coming after the AFCCG nut punch from the Patriots at Kansas City when Mahomes did all he could in the second half to resuscitate KC but came up short because the Chiefs defense sucked.

Having Mahomes sewn up for a dozen years makes their already-skyrocketing asset that much more valuable.  

Consider this: According to Forbes, the Chiefs were the 28th most valuable franchise in the NFL with a total value of $986 million in 2011. By 2018, they were 24th in the league worth $2.1 billion and last September they were still 24th worth $2.3 billion. That will likely rise to nearly $3 billion when Forbes' new list comes out given the Super Bowl win and the presence of Mahomes, which will bring in way more revenue over the next 12 years than the $503 million they pay him.

The Chiefs made the deal as easy-to-swallow as they could in the first two years. Plus, the so-called “guarantee mechanisms” give the Chiefs an escape hatch they can use basically every year.

As for Mahomes, what’s he going to do, turn down a half-billion? Take the money and run, especially since the NFL could be approaching a bit of a recession.

The cap is going down in 2021 because local revenues are going to suffer with the pandemic. The changing media landscape, the financial fallout networks may experience because of COVID-19 and the fact this season may not deliver the same product the networks signed up for all may serve to diminish the next TV deal. The wrangling over how to deal with the drops has just begun.

So the deal is good for the Hunts and it's good for Mahomes.

But the cap hits begin getting big in 2022 ($31.5 million) and they are around $40 million for the next five seasons after that before ballooning to $60 million. If the NFL spreads out the revenue loss and cap decline it’s going to realize this season over a three-year period to soften the blow, the cap is not going to rise at the anticipated level.

And that’s not that good for the football team. Right now, defensive end Chris Jones is playing on a $16 million franchise tag and is pissed about it. Travis Kelce will make about $9 million the next two years as the best tight end in football. The Chiefs have six players this year with cap hits over $15 million. They can do that because Mahomes is a bargain with a $5.3 million cap hit.

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“If the Kansas City Chiefs can keep all the players together, we’re going to be a dynasty,” Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins said on Tuesday. Yeah, well, about that.

It’s virtually impossible to keep all the players together when A) one guy is making a huge percentage of the cap and B) your team starts getting pilfered because it plays well every year.

There will be pooh-poohing about Mahomes’ cap percentage and insistence on TV and gambling money rolling into the coffers. Again, post-pandemic, I don’t see the cap rebounding that quickly.

And if the cap gets to $225 million by the time Mahomes starts seeing his $40 million hits beginning in 2023? That’s 17.7 percent of the cap.

Tom Brady’s highest cap percentage in the past decade was 12.2 percent in 2018. His average cap hit since 2011 was 9.8 percent.

Brady’s willingness to take less for so long enabled the Patriots to pay Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Stephon Gilmore, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Donta’ Hightower really well (ever notice how many of the fat deals are on defense for Bill Belichick?). And it also allowed them to make sure the so-called middle class was squared away too.

By the end of it, when Belichick blanched at every Brady request to give him a bump, it was obvious the head coach was dying to be unburdened of a big-ticket quarterback.

We’ve gone over this at length already this offseason. And the benefit of Brady allowing himself to be lowballed was annually highlighted at Super Bowl time by national media.

People (Mike Felger) want to pretend the cap isn’t real. It is. You can ignore it. You can delay it. But eventually bills come due as they have for the Patriots this year.

New England’s stay in cap hell should be short. Meanwhile, a team like the Ravens who will now have Lamar Jackson using the Mahomes contract as a comp? Hell is on the horizon. Same for the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. Teams like the Rams, Raiders, and Eagles are already in hell now or approaching it next year having paid maybe really good but maybe not first-round picks like Jared Goff, Derek Carr and Carson Wentz huge amounts.

Mahomes is a unicorn. We can all agree on that. But his contract is going to be an albatross.