The only reliable predictor of the 2016 NFL season was a video game.
Before the season, Will Brinson’s “Madden 17” simulation told us that the Falcons would win the Super Bowl. That didn’t happen of course, but I’m still giving the sim points for calling a Falcons Super Bowl berth, because it’s something none of the experts here at CBSSports.com predicted at the time.
So, after the Super Bowl matchup was set and we were done properly freaking out about that first “Madden” sim (it took some time), we ran another one, which we published with a “Patriots second-half explosion downs Falcons in ‘Madden 17’ sim” headline. Days later, the Patriots overcame a 25-point second-half deficit to win Super Bowl LI.
The point being, EA Sports’ “Madden 17” is onto something. So with that in mind, we’re testing its powers once again. This time, we’re hoping the game can tell us which team should trade for Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who is expected to depart New England this offseason in exchange for draft ammunition.
If you think that’s an absurd idea, I won’t disagree. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fitting method to pick Garoppolo’s next team, because the very idea of a team giving up as much as a first-round pick for a player with two career starts and fewer than 100 passes under his belt is equally absurd.
Yet here we are: There’s a decent chance either the Browns, Bears, 49ers or Texans (all four have been linked to him) will try to land Garoppolo. For what it’s worth, Garoppolo apparently has no idea where he’ll be next season.
To figure out which one should trade for him, I started franchises with the suitors listed above, traded for Garoppolo, and then simulated the next three seasons. Here’s what “Madden” found ...
The price: The Patriots trade Garoppolo for a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick.
Note: “W-L” and “playoffs” are team stats. The remaining categories are Garoppolo’s individual stats.
*John Fox was fired after Year 3.
The verdict: Might as well stick with Jay Cutler.
Despite acquiring Garoppolo, the Bears did not break their playoff drought, averaging roughly six wins. Garoppolo enjoyed some success, but not the kind you would expect after giving up two draft picks. Bears general manager Ryan Pace is connected with Garoppolo’s agent, but he should ignore any incoming calls from Don Yee.
Our simulation pretty much matches what SportsLine wrote last week: Garoppolo just isn’t a big enough upgrade over Cutler to warrant a trade.
The price: The Patriots traded Garoppolo for a second-round pick and third-round pick.
Year 1 results:
Something strange happened after the first year. After I finished copying down Garoppolo’s statistics and before I could simulate the next season, I spotted a notification toward the bottom of the menu.
I clicked on it. This is what I found:
Yep -- the Texans, Steelers, and Patriots (Tom Brady retired in the game) wanted to trade for Garoppolo. Because I wanted to see what would happen over the course of three seasons, I ignored all three offers. But that didn’t matter.
After I simulated Year 2, I was shocked to see the Browns compile a 10-6 record. They even won the AFC North and beat the Colts in the wild-card round before falling to the 11-5 Jaguars (yeah, I laughed too) in the divisional round. Garoppolo did it! He actually led the Browns out of the long night -- at least that’s what I thought.
Then, I went to check on his individual stats. The good news: He completed 100 percent of his passes. The bad news: He attempted three total passes over the course of the season.
So, it turns out there’s a reason why the three teams wanted to trade for Garoppolo: The Browns no longer needed him. In the first round of NFL Draft after Year 1, they selected a quarterback out of Stanford named Lane Irwin.
Meet Mr. Irwin:
Irwin’s rating was identical to Garoppolo’s (78), but he won the starting job. So Garoppolo spent the season riding the bench, watching as Irwin took the Browns to the playoffs in his rookie year. Garoppolo wasn’t even on the Browns’ roster by Year 3 when Irwin led the Browns to second straight playoff berth.
The verdict: Don’t trade for Garoppolo, just draft Lane Irwin.
No, Irwin is not real. Yes, the Browns’ savior is an entirely fictional character. That might be the most Browns thing ever.
San Francisco 49ers
The price: The Patriots traded Garoppolo for a second-round and fourth-round pick.
I didn’t include Year 3 for a reason: Garoppolo departed via free agency after an embarrassingly awful second season (look at those numbers!), and the 49ers inked Sam Bradford to replace him. Garoppolo should take comfort in the fact that the 49ers went 1-15 in Year 3 with Bradford, so they were actually better off with him. Meanwhile, Garoppolo ended up on the Raiders ... since Derek Carr apparently signed with the Jets. Only in Madden!
The verdict: The 49ers are still a joke.
Clearly, at this point, the 49ers should just blow it all up -- literally. Even though Kyle Shanahan is reportedly targeting Garoppolo (among other candidates), the fact remains that the 49ers simply don’t have a good enough team to win with any quarterback. Put Garoppolo on the 49ers and he’ll average 11 touchdowns and 12.5 interceptions per season.
In other words, he would fit right in.
The price: The Patriots traded Garoppolo for a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick.
*Bill O’Brien retired after the second season. So no, the trade didn’t go well.
Again, Garoppolo didn’t last three seasons. Before Year 3, the Texans drafted Ramon Wesley from Penn State, who guided the Texans to the playoffs with a 9-7 record (that’s so AFC South). So, O’Brien -- a former Penn State coach -- retired before the team drafted a Penn State quarterback.
The verdict: An upgrade over Brock Osweiler, but that’s not saying much.
Again, Garoppolo was fine, but you don’t give up two draft picks for a fine quarterback -- even when your current quarterback is Brock Osweiler. The Texans would be better off finding a quarterback in the draft -- like the fictional Wesley -- or bringing in a capable veteran like Cutler, assuming the Bears cut him.
So, to review ...
- Garoppolo experiences the most individual success with the Bears, which sorta makes sense given the Bears are better equipped to win in the near term than the Browns and 49ers.
- He doesn’t last more than two seasons with the Browns, Texans and 49ers.
- He never leads a team to the playoffs.
- The Browns and Texans both draft legit franchise quarterbacks after releasing Garoppolo, so basically he’s “Good Luck Chuck.”
It’s almost like trading for a Patriots quarterback who has barely played in the NFL is a bad idea.