We have further evidence that the New England Patriots weren’t quite prepared for Tom Brady to defeat Father Time.
Bill Belichick has admitted that Brady’s sustained excellence into his late 30s and early 40s played a role in New England trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers in October 2017. Garoppolo was supposed to be Brady’s heir apparent, but as Brady continued to thrive past his 40th birthday, the Patriots couldn’t keep both QBs.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer added some interesting context to the Brady-Garoppolo situation Monday, however. According to Breer, the Patriots had a future with Garoppolo, not Brady, in mind when they traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks in March 2017.
“My understanding is Cooks was initially acquired, in 2017, as a piece for Jimmy Garoppolo, not Brady—with the feeling being that the Patriots would play more of a downfield game once Garoppolo became the quarterback, presumably in 2018,” Breer wrote in his MMQB column.
So, New England apparently believed strongly enough that Garoppolo would take over at QB that it acquired an offensive weapon for Garoppolo while he was still backing up Brady.
Cooks racked up 65 catches for 1,082 receiving yards and seven touchdowns with Brady in 2017, but as Breer notes, the downfield burner was a “bit of an awkward fit … stylistically” for Brady, who at that point was taking fewer shots downfield.
As Brady rolled to an eventual NFL MVP campaign in 2017, the Patriots realized they had to part with Garoppolo — then traded Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams after the 2017 season with Garoppolo off the roster.
The situation worked out in the short term for New England, which used its first-round pick from the Cooks trade to draft left tackle Isaiah Wynn and went on to win the Super Bowl in 2018.
But Breer used the Cooks example to point out that Brady’s continued dominance hampered the Patriots’ eventual rebuild, as they had money tied up in veteran contracts to maintain a contender around TB12.
New England’s sixth Super Bowl title in 2018 certainly validated delaying the rebuild in Foxboro. But it also helps explain why 2020 was so rough for the Patriots — and why Brady saw the writing on the wall last March.