There was once a time when Tom Brady needed his reps in the preseason. He was a young player with a chip on his shoulder that wanted to be known as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He has long since accomplished that goal, however. He is widely regarded as a top-five QB in the NFL today and he is considered one of, if not the best of all-time. With that said, at 37 years old, it’s time for him to step aside in the preseason, letting the younger guys show what they have.
As much as every New England Patriots fan hates to admit it, Brady’s time in the league is coming to a close. He has roughly three good years left and the Patriots will then have to look for alternatives. The most likely alternative right now, barring a free-agent signing or drafting another QB at some point, is Jimmy Garoppolo. It is no secret that Brady is getting older and the Patriots know it too.
Knowing that, the team should use the 2014 preseason to see what both Ryan Mallett and Garoppolo can do. They should be behind a decent supporting cast for a good chunk of time as well. Brady is a known commodity. Mallett and Garoppolo, to this point, are not.
As we all know injuries can strike at any time, even in the preseason. As Patriots fans might remember, about a year ago Brady was hit during practice on his knee and was forced to leave. All of New England held their collective breath as they wondered if their superstar QB would miss significant time. The injury turned out to be a false alarm, but it shows that you can go down at any point during the league calendar.
The Patriots have too much on the line this season to risk Brady getting hurt in the preseason. He should take a seat and watch what his backups can do in order to avoid injury. In doing so, he would also be giving reps to who will undoubtedly be the future of the team.
Mallett is a free agent at the end of the season and the Pats will want to move him before then. Instead of letting him play minimal snaps with backups, he should start every game playing with the starting offensive line and receivers, at least for the first quarter of the game. Doing so will help other teams (as well as the Patriots) properly evaluate what he can do as a starter.
As for Garoppolo, given that he is Mallett’s backup, he should come in with the second stringers initially. He then would stay in when the third-string-and-worse players come into the game. That way, if he struggles, the Pats will know it is because he is facing tougher competition. If he succeeds, what we saw in Week 1 would be confirmed, proving that it wasn’t a fluke. It would show that he is legit and capable of starting for the Pats at some point down the road.
Although it probably won’t happen, nothing bad can come from Brady taking a seat for the entire preseason. In fact, if both Mallett and Garoppolo impress, the Patriots and their fans could rejoice knowing Brady has quality backups behind him. As Pats fans saw first hand with the Drew Bledsoe injury, you never know when your time might be up in the league.