Give us the new model. The sleek replacement. The younger, sexier, more tantalizing up-and-comer. Right now, at this exact moment. Watch it work, watch the touchdowns drop, one after the other after the other, things of beauty, a seamless transition from Tom Terrific to Go-Go Garoppolo. Hear the whispers: Jimmy G., he’s got it. Tom, well, we love Tom, but he’s old now, you know? Nothing lasts forever.
Not even all-time greats.
My God, can we all slow down? Can we pause, just for a moment? Maybe this injury to Garoppolo has a silver lining. Yes, it’s awful for him. Yes, it’s a bummer. Yes, watching the kid step in there for a legend and go all “Any Given Sunday” was a spectacle and a hoot and great, great theater. Maybe Jimmy G. plays Thursday; probably he doesn’t. Certainly we’d all like the show to go on for another week.
Either way, can we try and remember one small, tiny, important fact in this world that demands the newest upgrade, the latest version, the next big story?
That Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time?
The man has won four Super Bowls. Four! Remember those? He has two Most Valuable Player awards on his mantel at home, surely right next to the photos of him and Gisele. He’s 39, true, but those of you out there talking QB controversy really want to bet against Brady and the anger and the resentment and the focus and skill and the need for vengeance that he’ll bring to bear on the football field when he returns from his suspension in Week 5 against the poor, hapless Cleveland Browns?
You do not.
Jimmy G. was great. For a game-and-a-half. He completed 70 percent of his passes. He threw four touchdowns and didn’t surrender a single interception. Most important, beyond the poise and the throws and the way he looked utterly at home guiding the offense of the game’s best-run organization, he led the Patriots to a 2-0 start. Before he got hurt halfway through his second game — ever, as a starter — he continued to show that The Patriot Way includes among its qualities a Midas touch with quarterbacks.
This still doesn’t make the man Tom Brady. If Jacoby Brissett goes out there and beats Houston on Thursday night — and at this point, who’d be surprised — it won’t make him Tom Brady, either.
A few irksome facts: Since he supplanted Drew Bledsoe and changed the very way we think of the New England Patriots, Tom Brady has missed only 17 games. That goes all the way back to 2001. And yet the Patriots are 12-5 over that span without him. Matt Cassel, who in 2008 started 15 games and went 10-5, threw for 3,693 yards that season. In games without Brady, most of them with Cassel at the helm, the Patriots have averaged 26.2 points per game. That’s good enough to be be one of the best offenses in any given NFL season.
You know who else believed the guy who lit it up without Brady was the new, shiny, must-have object? Scott Pioli. Remember him? He’d left the Patriots as a player personnel guru to be the Kansas City Chiefs‘ general manager, so he probably should have known better. A second-round pick later, a lot of guaranteed money for a failed starting QB later, and Pioli having been fired as the Chiefs’ GM, and we learned what we should already have known: A single season with New England doesn’t make the guy who steps in for an injured Tom Brady the next Tom Brady.
Sorry, Jimmy G.
Sorry, in advance, Jacoby Brissett, assuming you do the Patriot thing and lead your team to a win Thursday night.
Sorry, my media brethren who were gearing up — or just went there already — for The Great Quarterback Controversy of 2016.
There’s only one Tom Brady. It doesn’t matter if Garoppolo comes back and throws for seven touchdowns Thursday night with a bum shoulder, if they put a 50-burger on Houston, if J.J. Watt after the game looks earnestly into the camera and declares Jimmy G. a quarterback savant. Doesn’t matter if it’s Brissett instead.
Tom Brady is the man for the New England Patriots until he loses the job through his play. No one, regardless of the circumstances, takes that job from Brady without his help.
Can Garoppolo be the Patriots’ bright future? Maybe. Holding a clipboard behind an all-time great can lead to all-time greatness, rare though it may be. Ask Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. Ask Steve Young and Joe Montana.
But the key word here is future. We forget so easily the value of the things we already possess and, as a result, we try too often to possess things that aren’t really that valuable in the first place to replace them.
Jimmy Garoppolo may — may — be the Patriots’ answer some day down the line. But Tom Brady is the keystone of the Patriots right now, and that’s not changing any time soon.