Jimmy Garoppolo or Jarrett Stidham: Who would you prefer as Tom Brady's heir apparent?

Jimmy Garoppolo or Jarrett Stidham: Who would you prefer as Tom Brady's heir apparent?

I get why we're having this conversation today, but if Jimmy G. had gone 5 for 7 for 48 yards instead of throwing up down the front of his shirt on Monday night, we wouldn't be.

The guy threw picks on five straight passes during practice last week. But that wasn't nationally televised, so citizens of Kneejerk Nation didn't get to engage in open competition for the most extreme take.

The way I feel about Jimmy G. as it relates to Jarrett Stidham? Same as I felt eight days ago, eight months ago, 18 months ago. Bill Belichick dodged a bullet when he left a swaddled Jimmy G. on the 49ers front porch, rang the doorbell and ran.

The Patriots may not have had to hand Garoppolo the insane five-year, $137M contract with $74.1M guaranteed that San Fran did, but they would have been asked to pay elite starter money for a guy who gets hurt too often.

Jimmy didn't even make it six quarters in 2016 before he got knocked out of his big audition.

To me, Garoppolo and Stidham are two sides of the same coin. Accurate throwers with great touch and velocity who are on the small side and need to learn to not scoot around asking to be roadkill. They are promising leaders but — as it is with players who are confident in their physical skills — they want to push the envelope. Even Brady did that in 2002. But Brady had the mental toughness to withstand bad performances. Beyond that, he was never anointed the way Garoppolo was until 2006.

Garoppolo is dealing with a pressure to be Magic Jimmy and justify a contract. Everybody's counting on him — ownership, GM, head coach, teammates — to restore Niner Pride. And he's got to muffle rising terror that he's not who everyone thought he was while coming back from an ACL.

Stidham is where Jimmy was. Enjoying low expectations with the ability to play free-and-easy against the dregs of other teams' rosters. He will be Belichick's shiny, new thing and there's a chance the coaches can curb Stidham's skittishness and make the game slow down for him.

Did the Patriots make the right decision shipping Garoppolo out? Who could possibly ask that with a straight face? Tom Brady was better in 2017 and 2018. He will quite likely be better in 2019. The only Super Bowl the Patriots lost in the past three seasons was because of game-day roster decisions on defense, not Brady.

The Patriots got to hit reset at the backup spot and they didn't miss out on a thing.

Yes, but wait . . . one . . . second! Before we get into Garoppolo versus Stidham, the reason Belichick's a) initial disinterest in trading Garoppolo and b) his quick-ship of Garoppolo to San Francisco were so interesting was because it was about the long-term future.

It wasn't about 2017 or 2018. It was about the idea of possibly having a legitimate franchise quarterback in 2023. It was about the unthinkable: Sustaining a run unlike any in the history of the league, and doing it by sacrificing a few years with Brady for a longer runway with Garoppolo.

We know how that went. Garoppolo wasn't going to re-sign here to continue to sit and wait. The Patriots weren't going to trade Brady. The Patriots went to two Super Bowls and won one. Garoppolo hasn't done squat. But the fact that Belichick was so reluctant to part ways with Garoppolo cuts at the core of what he wants for his legacy.

"I remember Bill's admiration for Coach [Bill] Walsh (the legendary 49ers coach),” Scott Pioli told you recently. “(Belichick) said, 'At some point, I want to create something that is truly great, and the measure of true greatness is something that lasts. It's not just winning a championship. It's something that lasts and lives beyond you.' "

So let's turn to the young quarterbacks we're discussing today. Who would have the better chance of helping Belichick "create something that is truly great . . . something that lasts"?

First, some logistics.

For Garoppolo to get back here, he'd need to be released by the Niners, and the Patriots would have to re-sign him. I believe it's highly unlikely San Francisco would do that because teams generally don't part with players they believe have the potential to be franchise quarterbacks. Plus, if Garoppolo has a brutal year, it'll be chalked up as the norm for a guy coming back off of injury and playing behind a brutal offensive line. (That unit didn't help him in his abysmal preseason performance the other night.) San Francisco will convince itself that he's still their guy, I think, no matter what.

There is, however, an out in Garoppolo's contract after this season. The Niners could release him and have only $4.2 million in dead cap on their books.

For argument's sake, let's say that happens. And let's say the Patriots would have to re-sign Garoppolo for two years and $36 million to get him back in-house. (That's what Sam Bradford — once thought of as a franchise guy, someone whose stock was pummeled by injury — got in 2016 from the Eagles.)

If Brady was still in New England, re-signed for 2020 after a good 2019, then the numbers would be tough to crunch. Garoppolo's deal would have to be back-loaded for 2021 so that the Patriots weren't dumping close to $40 million into the quarterback position for 2020. Then the what-about-Brady question would loom the following year.

The financial reality of a Garoppolo return makes it hard to fathom. And it'd make Stidham, who's shown promise in ways Garoppolo did as a rookie, the better option.

But if money was no object, or if the dynamics with Brady weren't part of the equation — maybe he decides to go elsewhere? — I'd go with Garoppolo.

The reason why is as simple as this: We've seen him have success at the NFL level. It was only a couple of games in New England. And he did get hurt. But . . . we've seen him do it.

We then saw Garoppolo do some remarkable things for a brief period before he was hurt in San Francisco. Those are on the record. They happened. We've seen it.

Garoppolo's ability to stay healthy would concern me. His ability to handle pressure as "the guy" would concern me. 

But for as little as we've seen from him, we have far less than that with Stidham. Stidham's impressive moments have been against backups. They've come against vanilla schemes.

That's why, given the option between the two, I'd still have to go with Garoppolo. Warts and all.

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Patriots on controversial calls in loss to Chiefs: 'A tough pill to swallow'

Patriots on controversial calls in loss to Chiefs: 'A tough pill to swallow'

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick wasn't thrilled. He stood at the podium in the belly of Gillette Stadium, his team coming off of its second consecutive loss, and he was peppered with questions about the officiating. This after he'd said in his opening remarks, "A lot of other circumstances in the game; no point in talking about those."

The officiating queries came anyway.

"You'd have to talk to them about that," he said. "I'm not going to speak for them."

Asked if calls made by Jerome Boger's crew impacted his team's ability to sustain any momentum: "I don't know," he said.

In all, there were 15 penalties called for 161 yards in the game, and penalties were among the calls garnering attention after the fact. But the calls that generated the most buzz in the Patriots locker room weren't penalties. The headliner was the call that took points off the board for Belichick's team early in the fourth quarter.

Tom Brady hit rookie N'Keal Harry with a short pass that he took down to the goal line. Diving into the end zone, it appeared as though Harry had scored a touchdown. He celebrated as though he had. Replays showed he remained in bounds. But one official marked him out of bounds at the three-yard line.

The Patriots weren't able to challenge the play — they were out of challenges after losing a pass-interference challenge earlier in the game — and they kicked a field goal three plays later to make the score 23-16.

"We still had a chance to win," Brady said. "Wish we could have scored there at the end."

A touchdown and an extra point would've made the score 23-20, meaning on the final Patriots drive of the game, where they entered deep into Chiefs territory, they would've been able to kick a chip-shot field goal to tie it.

"I thought it was a touchdown," said Harry, who left the game with a hip injury. "I'm pretty sure everybody else thought it was a touchdown. It's something that's out of our control, out of my control.

"It's definitely frustrating, but at the end of the day I was always told to control what I could control. I felt like I did that. I felt like my effort was good. That's all I can give."

ESPN's Mike Reiss, serving as the pool reporter, spoke to Boger after the game about the call.

"What led to it was the covering official on the wing was blocked out by defenders," Boger said. "The downfield official who was on the goal line and looking back toward the field of play had that he stepped out at the three-yard line. So, they got together and conferred on that. The final ruling was that he was out of bounds at the three-yard line."

Calling the play a touchdown and then using replay to the crew's advantage — since all scores are reviewed — was not discussed as an option, Boger explained.

"Not really. Those two officials who were covering it, they look at it in real time," he said. "This case was unique in that the guy who would have ruled touchdown had him short. So maybe if that ruling official on the goal line had a touchdown, we could have gotten into that, but he thought that that guy stepped out of bounds. The goal line wasn’t in the play."

The reason the Patriots couldn't challenge the Harry play was because they'd had a challenge fail earlier in the contest. Late in the third quarter, Belichick threw his red hanky when on a third-and-4 play Stephon Gilmore got picked by Travis Kelce, allowing a catch to Sammy Watkins. Watkins was tackled right near the line to gain,  and so Belichick was challenging both the pass interference and the spot of the ball.

The challenge failed, which meant they'd have just one more challenge for the game, even if that next challenge succeeded.

Later in the third quarter, on a third-down pass to Kelce, Devin McCourty punched out the football and Gilmore recovered it quickly with a good deal of open space in front of him. The play was whistled dead.

The Patriots challenged and won. It was a momentum-shifter, but the fact that they had to use their challenge at all — on a play that was clearly fumbled upon review, no guesswork there — bothered the Patriots after the fact.

"It sucks because at the end of the day, we felt like those were plays that were gonna help us change the momentum of the game and put us in a good spot to eventually win the football game," safety Duron Harmon said. "It was taken away from us. I know the refs, they have a hard job. I'm not going to sit here and say obviously  their job is easy. 'Just make a better call, and do this better.' At the end of the day, we all have a job. We all get paid money to do the job and do it well."

Harmon added: "I just feel empty. We played a good team and had a chance to win. We didn't win. Like I said, I'm not going to just sit here and blame the refs. The Chiefs probably feel some calls could've gone their way, didn't go their way, but at the end of the day when you got two touchdowns taken away from you, that's always a tough pill to swallow."

The Patriots finished the game going 1-for-3 in the red zone. They were 3-for-15 on third and fourth down. They averaged — including three sacks — just 4.6 yards per pass. They averaged 3.4 yards per carry in the first half against a defense that was allowing over 5.0 for the season.

There was plenty they could have done to help themselves. But it's not hyperbole to say that final drive — which resulted in a fourth-down pass breakup on a Brady attempt to Julian Edelman — should have been an opportunity for them to tie the game with an easy field goal.

"You don't wanna blame officiating," Harmon said, "because at the end of the day, we still had an opportunity to win."

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Chiefs' Chris Jones reveals his reason for trash talking with Tom Brady

Chiefs' Chris Jones reveals his reason for trash talking with Tom Brady

FOXBORO -- Trash talking New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn't sound like a good idea, but Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones had a reason for getting into it with the six-time Super Bowl champion Sunday.

Jones and Brady came helmet-to-helmet with 2:59 left in the first half and Kansas City leading 17-7. The Chiefs defense had just forced an incompletion from Brady to bring up fourth down, and Jones tried his best to frustrate the 42-year-old quarterback as much as possible.

"Just crap-talking," Jones said of his exchange with Brady. "Tom is a heck of a quarterback, a Hall of Famer. Any time you're able to talk crap, you gotta affect him any type of way. I got much respect for Tom Brady, man. He's definitely a GOAT in my eyes, one of the greatest. Any time you're able to affect his game any type of way, whether it's talking, whether it's hitting him, whether it's getting him uncomfortable, you got to."

Does Jones think all of that had any effect?

"I mean, you see the score."

The Chiefs won 23-16 to secure the AFC West title and take another step closer toward earning a top-two seed in the AFC playoff race.

It's hard to imagine any kind of trash talk having a negative impact on Brady's performance. He's one of the most mentally tough players in league history. What we do know is this Chiefs defense is much better-equipped to slow down the Patriots' offense than last season's unit.

The Chiefs, from a physicality standpoint, made an effort to stand up to the Patriots, and that was quite apparent when Kansas City wide receiver Sammy Watkins got tangled up with New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore on the visitors' sideline in the second half.

"You got two good players going up against each other in heated moments," Watkins said. "I know him from (the Buffalo Bills), so I was like, this is my opportunity to take a shot, and I did, and he took his shots also."

The chippiness made for a playoff-like scene in Foxboro, and you can bet all of the trash talk and physical play won't be forgotten if these teams meet again in January.

"First play of the game I knew it was more of a playoff atmosphere, a playoff game," Watkins said. "It definitely was probably one of the hardest battles since last year, and that's what we look forward to. It's going to be the same way in the next six or seven weeks, so we just gotta continue to come out and play with each other and play hard, strong, and keep fighting."

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