In football, everything starts with the quarterback. Time and time again, weak teams that are led by strong quarterbacks are able to sneak their way into the NFL’s playoffs, while skilled teams without a good passer find their dreams shattered regularly. Here in New England, the Patriot’s haven’t needed to worry about who would lead them to the promise land.
But that quarterback, that living legend won’t be able to do it forever. He’s 41. Even though he wants to play into his late sixties, the realistic possibility of him playing for more than another couple of years is doubtful. So once again, it was time to start looking for a successor.
After Jimmy Garoppolo was traded, it was clear that a new quarterback would be needed. The next “the next guy up.” The next passer who could throw his way into the hall of fame. The next Tom Brady.
In last weekend’s NFL draft, the successor was expected to be named. A Brandin Cooks trade that brought in a second first round pick gave Bill Belichick even more opportunities to find the next face of the Patriots in this past draft.
After all, this was a year loaded with quarterbacks. Four of the first ten selections were QBs, but despite having the current and future assets to trade up for one of them, they didn’t do it. It wasn’t because Lamar Jackson was still on the board, because they passed on him as well.
This team, rumored to be after a QB didn’t select one until the seventh round, when they named Danny Etling as the 219th pick of the draft. The LSU product was not who Patriots fans were expecting. That doesn’t mean they should necessarily be expecting to see him on the field.
Patriots fans, let’s take a minute to think. What do we expect out of the hometown football team? What do we expect out of Belichick? What do other teams expect out of themselves?
We’re spoiled folks. The Brady led Patriots have won how many division titles? They’ve been to how many Super Bowls? They’ve won how many rings? Almost all of the success the team has achieved has been because of one player. The right player.
There is nobody like Bill Belichick when it comes to finding value and turning duds into stars. His tendency to trade back in drafts isn’t because he wants just any player. Bill wants the best player and the right player.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s not panic. Danny Etling is a player. He’s a player who can back up Brady. That doesn’t mean he’s the player. That doesn’t mean that he’s the vision management has for the future. He’s a body. A placeholder until the right guy comes along. At least in the eyes of the draft team.
Had they selected a better player that they didn’t feel was talented enough to be the successor, they’d be wasting next year’s opportunities in addition to the year after that’s. Quarterbacks are long term investments, and investing in the wrong guy could take up time that could be used on the right guy. If the team used a second rounder on a quarterback, they’d have to commit to him and would look foolish if they drafted another quarterback early the next season that would be their guy.
Most teams aren’t expected to finish in the Super Bowl every single season. The teams that do don’t just have a quarterback, they have the quarterback. The passer who will get them to the promise land. Don’t panic. Brady’s successor hasn’t been named yet because they don’t want a guy. They want the guy. He wasn’t available in this draft. We’ll have to stay tuned for the next one.
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