FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shows no signs of decline, but the team isn't taking any chances. Hence the selection of Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the NFL draft (62nd overall), one of the more surprising league-wide picks.
“The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future. I think you're better off being early rather than late at that position,” coach Bill Belichick said late Friday night.
It was a straightforward acknowledgement from a coach who often prefers to avoid them. "Life after Brady” has been bantered about only on sports talk radio in the region, but this is the first time the Patriots have publicly said it is part of their mindset as well.
Brady will be 37 this upcoming season, but is still playing at an extremely high level and is signed through 2017. Because of this, and also the presence of No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett -- who is under contract through the 2014 season -- debate was already raging locally Friday night as to whether the Patriots wasted such a high draft pick on a player who might not see the field for four seasons, if ever. That doesn't figure to subside anytime soon.
Meanwhile, in New York, Garoppolo noted the similarities between his draft-day wait and how the Green Bay Packers selected sliding signal-caller Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 first round as Brett Favre's heir apparent. He said it worked out for Rodgers, and now he hopes the same happens for him.
When might that be?
Up to this point, it hasn't been on the Patriots' radar. Now it is at least a consideration.
“We know what Ryan's contract situation is, we know what Tom's age and contract situation is, and I don't think you want to have one quarterback on your team,” Belichick explained. “I don't think that's responsible to the entire team or the organization.”
One needs only to look at the 2011 Indianapolis Colts as a prime example. When Peyton Manning was lost to a season-ending neck injury that year, the season went down with him, and it ultimately cost vice chairman (and current ESPN analyst) Bill Polian his job.
As for Garoppolo, Belichick said he spent one-on-one time with him this spring and “he has a lot of qualities that we admire in a quarterback.” Scouts have touted his smarts, anticipation and work ethic, and he looks like an ideal fit for the team's hard-driving program.
The Houston Texans, it seems, had similar thoughts, as Garoppolo was believed to be a strong consideration for them at the top of the third round before the Patriots made the pick.
So instead, Garoppolo comes to New England to back up Brady and potentially replace him down the line.
Maybe it's in four years. Maybe it's longer.
Either way, for the first time, the Patriots let us know a potential succession is on their minds as well.
In their view, it's better to be early than late.