Credit Photo: John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated/ The MMQB
It seems like every year there’s a new backup that is the new diamond in the rough for Quarterback-a-lackin teams. Enter, Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s talk about Jimmy getting traded to anywhere from Cleveland to Houston to New Orleans or even Arizona. As of the time I’m writing this it appears that Mike Glennon is headed to Chicago to be the heir to the Jay Cutler throne, but nothing is ever finalized till free agency actually starts (EDIT: in the process of writing this Jay Cutler is supposedly being released therefore this rumor gains a bit more credence). So what about Jimmy?
On paper, he looks like he’s got some good pedigree: second round (62 overall pick) taken behind the likes of Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr. He’s had the advantage of spending three years under the teachings of Tom Brady, and Bill Belichick. So far so good, right? Add to that the fact that in the games he’s played he’s got 5 TD’s and 0 INT’s, it all looks like he’s a great prospect. So what’s the drawback? What makes me wary of the “hot commodity” backup QB’s is the vastly inconsistent results as starters on other teams. Let’s think of the recent backups turned starters on other teams: Matt Flynn, Matt Cassel, and Brock Osweiler. If you’re familiar with even one of those names, you know where I’m going with this, but indulge me for a minute.
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First we have Matt Flynn. Flynn was solid in two starts in the 2010-2011 seasons and put up somewhat impressive numbers (941YDs, 9TDs, 2INTs). Then he turned that into a 3/$19m deal in free agency with Seattle during which he never started a game, instead getting beat out by Russel Wilson. Granted, Seattle didn’t give up much for Flynn and didn’t really lose anything in the deal basically having him as an insurance policy.
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Second on our list is Matt Cassel. Cassel’s situation most mirrors Garoppolo. Cassel was Tom Brady’s backup in New England from 2005-08 and eventually started most of 2008 due to Brady’s injury. Cassel’s pre-trade performance was the biggest sample size on this list, he put up fairly solid numbers in his 15 starts in 2008 (3693 yds, 230.8 yds/g, 21 TDs, 11 INTs). Kansas City liked what they saw from his 2008 season, so they traded a 2nd round pick for Cassel and Vrabel. Kansas City then signed him to a 6yr/$28m deal and Cassel went 19-28 from 2009-12 making the Pro Bowl once and losing his only playoff start. All in all, Matt Cassel wasn’t the worst Stop Gap quarterback in history, but he definitely wasn’t the answer Kansas City was looking for.
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Brock Osweiler, the final and definitely most fresh on our minds. Drafted in 2012 in second round, Osweiler had the opportunity to learn under Peyton Manning who was one of the best field generals of all time. In 2015, Osweiler ended up starting 7 games in relief of an injured Manning and going 5-2 with modest stats (1967 yds, 245.9 yds/g, 10 TDs, 6 INTs) and helping Denver go to the playoffs and ultimately win a Super Bowl. After the Super Bowl win and Peyton Manning’s retirement, and during the 2016 off-season Houston out bid Denver to give Osweiler a 4yr/$72m deal. Osweiler proceeds to go 8-6 with dreadful stats (2957 yds, 197 yds/g, 15 TDs, 16 INTs) and eventually become involved in a mid-season Quarterback controversy. Currently the Texans are faced with a decision between riding it out or taking a massive cap hit to cut Osweiler, which is not a good position for anyone involved.
So that brings us back around to Garoppolo. He’s an incredibly unknown quantity. He has started exactly 2 NFL games, and yet, I’ve read probably 10 articles by other sports writers that say he can be a franchise saving quarterback. Keep in mind also, Garoppolo comes from a football culture in New England that has players more often play poorly in other organizations schemes than play well. Bill Belichick has some sort of voodoo that turns bad players into good players when he acquires them, and good players bad when they leave. I’m in no way saying that Jimmy doesn’t have that potential to be a quality starter and more somewhere else, but I am saying that the precedent for that happening isn’t good. The three guys I stated above either had better quality starts or more of a sample size and they weren’t anything special. We all like to play hypotheticals as if we were actual NFL GM’s (that’s why Dynasty Fantasy Football and Madden GM mode exist), but honestly I don’t know how you could sleep at night if you gave up anything serious in trade for Garoppolo or the like.