The No. 1 privilege a press pass gives you is access to go to people and say, "Help me understand . . . ?" The job is to then pass on to you what I learned. Hopefully, you say, "Ohhh, now I get it."
When it comes to the Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the Niners for a second-round pick, it's clear most people still don't get it. That's okay. I really don't get it either.
MORE ON JIMMY G.
Bill Belichick distills his decision-making process into a simple phrase: "Just doing what's best for the football team." And that usually means maximizing value. Flipping Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick without putting a For Sale sign on him isn't maximizing value. Here are the caveats offered.
Garoppolo -- with his expiring contract -- is a rental for the Niners and could sign anywhere else at the end of the year unless San Fran franchises him. He wasn't completely gifted to the Niners. There is risk and cost involved for them. But they have guaranteed access to his services and it feels now like a second-round pick for those services seems light.
Also, Garoppolo was Lombardi insurance. The 2017 Patriots are the Super Bowl favorites. Say they had traded Garoppolo in April and then Tom Brady had gotten hurt in August, leaving the team in the hands of Jacoby Brissett. A Lombardi -- the reason these teams play -- would have been kicked away all for a couple of extra draft picks. So they hung on to Garoppolo as long as they could.
And then they were stuck.
Franchising Garoppolo was considered but, in the end, there was no way the team could make sense of sinking about $45 million into salary for Brady and Garoppolo in 2018. The accounting wouldn't work.
An extension? The Patriots didn't even make an official offer. They knew Garoppolo wanted to play, not watch.
Meanwhile, as Garoppolo continues to play astoundingly well for a horrible team in San Fran, we are watching a theory -- the idea that Robert Kraft told Bill Belichick that he couldn't trade Tom Brady -- morph into fact, at leasts in the public domain. I've been told that didn't happen. There was no conversation. I've also been told that if there were a conversation, a Brady trade would have probably been vetoed.
Was it never broached because Belichick knew which way the conversation would have gone? Or was it never broached because -- despite what Garoppolo's doing now and figures to do for the next decade -- he's not better than Tom Brady?
This much is a fact: None of this went as projected. The Patriots couldn't presume Brady would use the drafting of Garoppolo as the ultimate fuel and raise his level to the heights he has and win two more Super Bowls. And they couldn't predict that a kid from Eastern Illinois would improve to the point where it would be reasonable to discuss keeping him instead of the greatest there's ever been.
Talk about the ultimate high-class problem. But the solution's been messy. And there's no discounting the swirl of conversation and second-guessing as Garoppolo continues to light it up. There was no easy answer. And that's why the questions remain.