One thing that was learned from the 2012 NFL season is that New England Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady is on the decline. Since Brady took over in 2001, the Patriots have made the postseason every year except 2002 and 2008. But when the 2013 season kicks off, the future Hall-of-Famer will be 36-years old, and it’s time for the Patriots to consider life without Brady.
In 2005, Green Bay Packers starting quarterback Brett Favre turned 36-years old. He was beginning to decline as he began to push the 40-year mark, so the Packers smartly began to consider life beyond their face of the franchise. With a late first-round pick, the Packers selected Aaron Rodgers out of California. Despite the ensuing quarterback controversy that took place in 2007 and 2008, the Rodgers pick gave the young quarterback a few years to learn under Favre, which was the best idea for Green Bay as they didn’t miss a step when making the transition between leaders.
There is another way to go about replacing Brady. It’s what took place with the Indianapolis Colts. With his neck injury keeping Peyton Manning out for a full season, the Colts went ahead and took a last place finish giving them the number one pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. With that selection, they took a NFL-ready college quarterback in Andrew Luck. They released their hall of fame quarterback Manning and began a new ear with their new quarterback.
While the Colts plan was successful, that would not work for the Patriots. This only worked for the Colts because Manning was injured, meaning they were going to lose anyway. Also they got lucky in that the perfect draft fell the year after they lost. Following the Colts method would require the Patriots to wait until Brady retired and then have a season that saw them win maybe two games. That also would require a bit of luck as they would need a NFL-ready college quarterback atop that draft.
In going the route of the Packers there are also a few other advantages. The Patriots are unlike any other team in how their offense works. The system requires a quarterback that has complete control and the trust of every player on that offense. That trust takes time and giving a rookie quarterback a few years behind Brady, he can earn that trust and become an immediately successful replacement.
When Drew Bledsoe got hurt in 2001 no one was sure if he could be replaced. He was the most successful quarterback in franchise history. But Brady came in and made the Patriots the most successful team in the NFL. Now Brady is seemingly near the end of his career and it’s time to find his replacement. The Patriots need to start looking for a young quarterback to groom to take that position.