For the first four games, the New England Patriots offense will be helmed by Jimmy Garoppolo and then presumably the rest of the season by Brady (sorry, ESPN trolls I’m not linking to your dumb hot takes). Meaning that the Patriots offense will undergo the largest adjustment of the NFL season simply by obligation (barring Aaron Rodgers being suspended for four games for openly admitting he required his staff to overinflate balls).
Luckily for them, the Pats have the “Adjuster in Chief” in William Stephen Belichick and his “Secretary of Offense” in Joshua Thomas McDaniels. This inane lynching of Brady will be no different than his ’08 injury, they will adjust. Sure, not having 12 will hurt a buttload more than it helps, but there are few silver linings.
Does the Brady suspension make the Pats Offense MORE unpredictable? Yes.
Smarter (and lazier) men than I came up with a more nuanced way to approach analysis of the NFL, which is to evaluate it in four-game chunks that form trends. Football at the highest level is just stacks on stacks on stacks of adjustments, like a Mahjongg tile game. When you look at a 16 game season or multiple seasons, the nuances are indecipherable, but if you cut three-quarters of the tiles away, you can register the ways offenses and defenses are adjusting, which makes the areas of strength and weakness much easier to identify.
With four games a piece from two different QBs, this will make this type of evaluation more difficult for opposing defenses. Because after week 8 is the bye week, where the Pats self-evaluate and make adjustments in anticipation of teams exploiting their found weaknesses (Good timing). It’s worth noting that the Pats offense last year was the best in the league, by far over the first nine weeks of the season. To some extent, that calendar is extended this year (barring injury) through more than three-quarters of the regular season.
But not having the best player on the team, also makes the team much much much worse. Here are ways to blunt the most damage and the ways they could backfire.
Task 1: Build a variation of the offense that suits Garopollo’s strengths.
Phil Simms could have pulled this out of whatever’s left between his ears, but it’s worth mentioning that Josh McDaniels is pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good at tailoring an offense to individual players’ skills. It definitely won’t be Cassell ‘08 redux, (always link to the boss’ bomb post) which was like a Tesla being driven by my great grandmother. But McDaniels made Kyle Orton an effective QB (’10-’11 RTG: 87.1), so he will be chomping at the bit to highlight the areas that JG’s effective.
Complication: Jimmy G’s basically Brady but 6’2″ and unproven: he has a quick release, reads defenses well and works quickly, intense, hardworker, strong leader. So the offense probably won’t be that much different.
Task 2: Use wrinkles that you wouldn’t use with Brady under center.
When Brady’s running the offense, the Patriots rarely use gadget plays because the offense doesn’t need to gamble. But they’re certainly not opposed to it. (SIDENOTE: This is all anecdotal because no one has real statistics in the NFL, somehow the NBA can tell us within an inch where Bill Russell shot from on a Tuesday in 1964, and baseball has a pitch locator that identifies speed, spin, location in less than a second, but no one has ever charted plays in the NFL, despite it’s popularity and lack of a large sample size, good lord, anyway).
With Brady, all they have to do is execute or “do their job” (the most tired but still relevant phrase) at their various positions and they will be fine playing it straight. (INSERT: STAT for gadget plays, oh, right, there aren’t any) As someone who thinks the gadget play design and execution that the Patriots used in ’14 Ravens AFC Divisional round game were some of the most inspired and balls-out plays in NFL history, I am pro-gadget play. And as a football fan, I love things like this video:
(My favorite is the bounce pass from Presbyterian, note for Indy turf, prepare). In order to win against tough defenses (ari, MIA, HOU, BUF) they may need to take a few chances with the young guy.
Complication: When a new QB takes over, typically you want to simplify not overcomplicate. Also gadget plays can blow up:
Seriously go over to Youtube and watch it, I’ll wait. Okay now watch it one more time. S000000o good. Collinsworth: What the… heck?
Task 3: Create mismatches that are easier to exploit.
I wrote about this last weekend, but the elite two TE packages will make things easier on Jimmy G. Identifying how many DBs vs. LBs on the field is far simpler than individual player match-ups.
Complication: You’re asking a person who hasn’t played a meaningful football game in 3 years to quickly identify personnel and adjust protections. Lot to ask.
Task 4: Create a nickname for this dude, a starting QB needs a solid handle.
Brees, Brady, Rodgers… nowhere does Garoppolo fit into that list. If he’s going to gain trade value or *gulp* be a long-term option for the Pats, this has to happen. Also, it’s exhausting typing Garoppolo, it’s like Belichick, it never looks right however you spell it. JG’s Italian, so my pick is Jimmy Gabagool.
Complication: Gabagool is harder to type.
Task 5: Protect the dude.
With no Brady and Ebner, I think Belichick and Caserio keep an extra O-lineman on the active roster, which should at least give them ample bodies at each position on the front line.
Complication: O-line will improve, but Solder’s coming off major surgery and Vollmer ain’t exactly a healthy doggy. Depth at Tackle isn’t optimal.
Task 6: Stop talking about how handsome he is until he wins a game.
This one is for media members and fawning “hilarious” tweeters, losers aren’t handsome, they’re “pretty boys”. Pretty boys suck.
All that being said, I’m decently optimistic, but first four weeks are gonna suck a little. Maybe he wins ugly, maybe he loses a few, maybe he loses em all, who knows. We know that Brady will be back and ready to go in October, that’s all that matters. Until then, keep the expectations low and keep Brady ’01 in mind. Godspeed.