A week ago Saturday, 40-year-old Tom Brady became the oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game. And most of last week was spent getting breathless updates on the state of Brady’s injured passing hand.
All of which made me think of the 49ers.
Explain it again. Why did the Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo to them?
When the deal was made, the night before Halloween, it seemed like an interesting move that might pan out.
Now, with the benefit of perspective, we realize what it was.
A freakin’ miracle.
You acquire a young (26), potential franchise quarterback, with NFL experience, who also happens to be a GQ hunk? For a second-round draft pick? When does that ever happen?
Garoppolo is already a folk hero here. Three weeks ago, in the wee hours of the morning, a 4.4 earthquake woke up most of the Bay Area. Half an hour later someone Tweeted: “Is Jimmy G OK?”
God knows the trade has been hashed and rehashed. Football experts have explained — slowly and patiently for we slow thinkers — that the Patriots made the logical call.
OK … but it still seems odd.
The justification starts with the fact that Jimmy G was going to be a free agent at the end of the season. An unrestricted free agent, meaning he could go wherever he wanted and be paid crazy cash.
So, the thinking goes, New England was going to lose him anyhow and figured it might as well get some value.
OK, but couldn’t New England just match the offers?
That’s when you get Part II of the justification. And you might want to make a note because this will come up again. It all comes back to Brady.
Garoppolo wants to play. He waited his turn and thinks this is it.
That’s the way of the NFL. Look at Kansas City. Dependable, likeable Alex Smith is getting hints from the Chiefs. The team may trade him and go with second-year gunslinger Patrick Mahomes.
But, as Brady has said in so many words: I ain’t goin’ anywhere. In fact, I might play until I am 45. Did you hear that, Jimmy?
Got it. But wouldn’t an alternative be for the Patriots to designate Garoppolo a franchise player? That would hold him on the roster for a year while they worked something out.
They could, but estimates are Garoppolo would get something like $22 million if he was franchised. That’s serious money for a backup.
And again, it all hinges on the premise that Brady is going to step away in the near future. And (see above) it doesn’t look likely. What’s more, the organization isn’t nudging him.
And here’s a chance to throw out some wild rumors.
There is a narrative where head coach Bill Belichick tells Brady his days are numbered. And Brady, the story goes, heads to his pal, team owner Robert Kraft, and complains. Kraft tells Belichick to stick with Brady, which results in the trade.
All right … sketchy.
But it all boils down to the fact that Garoppolo was going to become a free agent and whether you franchised him for one year or not, he wasn’t going to stay as long as Brady had the job.
So rather than lose Jimmy for nothing, the Pats traded him.
OK … but that’s still weird.
If that was really the Patriots’ logic — Jimmy is out of here so we have to deal him — why wait until Halloween? If they’d shopped him during the off season they surely could have gotten more in trade. A first rounder, you’d think.
Instead, they kept him. For eight games. Why?
Maybe because no matter how often we hear that Brady is chewing Brazilian tree bark and renewing his bodily fluids with distilled grapefruit extract, he’s still 40 years old. Sure, he is hanging onto that job like grim death.
But stuff happens. (See “Brady, hand”) If, in the first eight games of the year, Brady suffered an injury, or started to show his age, New England could insert Garoppolo. And if Jimmy played well — as he did with the 49ers — the changing of the guard at New England might take care of itself.
Instead, Brady put together such an epic season that he’s in the conversation for MVP. So, halfway through the year, with the trade deadline looming, the Patriots dealt Garoppolo to the 49ers.
OK … but still a little strange.
Because by some accounts the trade came together abruptly on a Monday night. Other teams, which might have been interested, didn’t even get their cell phones out before Garoppolo was on a plane to Santa Clara.
So why the 49ers? There are a couple of theories. One, that Belichick was impressed with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, and already had a warm relationship with Kyle’s father, Mike.
And it has been floated that grumpy old Bill actually has a soft side and wanted to send his boy Jimmy to a team with a future, rather than the abandoned mine shaft that is Cleveland, for example.
So we are asked to believe that Belichick, the Darth Vader of the NFL, traded Jimmy G to the 49ers out of love and affection?
Hard to believe. But then we don’t know what to believe.
All we really know is without Jimmy, every time Brady gets hit, the Patriots hold their breath.
Contact C.W. Nevius at cw.nevius@Pressdemocrat.com. Twitter: @cwnevius.