The New England Patriots should have traded backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the Browns, or some other such hapless franchise, for a bonanza of draft picks in the offseason. And if they want to salvage their 2017 campaign and flirt with another Lombardi Trophy -- and truly capitalize on Tom Brady's enduring greatness -- then they must strongly consider moving the young passer now.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Patriots still have at least a few more weeks to reap the ultimate reward for Garoppolo, and to do so without having to apply a franchise tag first. Brady isn't showing any signs of slowing down (haven't you read his book? 40 is the new 30 for QBs), and keeping both quarterbacks into 2018 and beyond will be difficult if not impossible, anyway.
New England must add quality pieces to its failing defense ASAP. Like now. Like, before the end of this month when the trade deadline comes around. The 49ers might be a great fit, for starters.
We've all heard chatter about the Pats moving corner Malcolm Butler, but getting quality defensive help for him will be a challenge, as the haul won't be sufficient to meet their many needs. Besides, New England needs all the help it can get on that side of the ball. Butler's value isn't high right now as part of the NFL's worst defense.
Garoppolo, meantime, remains coveted and vaunted, still unblemished as a pro, and he could net Bill Belichick multiple young, fast, cheap and impactful defensive players in return. He brings the kind of potential franchise-altering hope that is always in short supply, especially this time of year. He might be just the guy to save New England's season ... and to do it by playing elsewhere.
For the ultimate Super-Bowl-or-bust team chasing history and seeking to extend a dynasty, they need to move the No. 2 QB. Otherwise, given the dire straights of a defense that is getting exposed by even middling offenses, this season could end a helluva lot sooner than anyone has seen in Foxborough in quite some time.
This isn't a December defense, much less a January one, and the front seven is downright miserable. Yes, Belichick can develop a player or two on the fly, and he'll scheme some stuff up, but enough football people that I really trust view this defense as a massive malady, the likes of which even a near-perfect performance from Tom Brady every week can't overcome.
The Pats are quite lucky to even be 2-2, despite playing three of their first four at home -- only Brady's sublime, last-second comeback against Houston kept them from losing their first two at home for the first time since 2000, and Gillette Stadium no longer seems like a fortress. The Patriots came into Sunday allowing an NFL-worst 88 points, and with everyone in the NFL asking what's wrong with Cam Newton and a putrid Panthers attack, Matt Patricia's unit managed to give up 33 to Carolina and lose at home again. Newton looked like an MVP (22 of 29 for 318 yards, three TDs and one pick plus 44 rushing yards with a score) and not the hobbling shell of himself he was for three weeks.
What was wrong with Cam? He just hadn't faced a defense as flaccid as New England's yet, that's all. The Patriots came into the game with the second-worst rushing defense in the NFL and lived up to that billing, conceding 140 yards of just 29 carries. On the season they have given up a staggering 531 yards on 105 carries (5.1 per carry).
Their pass rush is basically a moot point, flashing ever so occasionally, and opposing quarterbacks (Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson and Newton) have combined to play like, well, Brady, against New England. Opposing passers have completed 99 of 142 passes (70 percent) for 1,343 yards (most allowed in NFL) with 11 TDs and three interceptions. Folks, that's a staggering average per attempt of 9.46 yards and a league-worst QB-rating allowed of 116.6. Ouch.
Newsflash, Garoppolo ain't fixing any of that, or helping the cause in any fashion, holding a clipboard every week. And all Brady has done is become the first player in NFL history to, in the first four weeks of a season, surpass 1,000 yards passing with at least 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. And, again, this team is damn lucky not to be 1-3.
It's time to market Garoppolo.
The market isn't as deep as it was back in the spring before all of those rookie quarterbacks were drafted, but all it takes is one team to make a deal. I'd start with the 49ers, who might not get their hands on Kirk Cousins in free agency. Why risk it on an unproven kid in the draft when you can get a groomed-and-ready Garoppolo now? DeForest Buckner or Arik Armstead (better fits in a New England 3-4) would be welcome upgrades in New England and could be the centerpiece of a deal, and their contracts are plenty trade friendly. Eric Reid would help, too.
The Chargers and Giants already look like 2017 is lost for them (and the Cardinals might not be that far behind). Both of their veteran quarterbacks seem to be aging rapidly (the opposite of Brady), but the rest of their rosters are not in rebuilding mode. Would Garoppolo make more sense for them than trying to draft a kid in April? Better to get your franchise QB now than too late or not at all.
Could you get Joey Bosa or Melvin Ingram and a run-stuffer for him? Would the presence of Landon Collins (and, say, Snacks Harrison) transform New England's defense not just for now, but for years to come? I'd want to find out. I can't see Belichick admitting a mistake on Chandler Jones being gone to Arizona, but damn is he needed back in New England now.
I wouldn't want to trade Garoppolo in the division, but then again, the Jets and Dolphins both have some defensive pieces that would fit, and neither has the long-term answer at quarterback on the roster right now. Make the calls.
The Pats can talk about Garoppolo being the future and all of that, and they've already gone to great lengths to establish a mythology about him. But he ain't Brady. No one is Brady. No one has accomplished what he has, and this legendary run doesn't have to be over because of the NFL's worst defense with the league's most coveted backup watching every week.
Brady isn't going to the bench this year or next year or maybe the year after. The Pats found a nice potential quarterback option in Jacoby Brissett who they dealt for very little to the Colts, and they'd get some picks in a Garoppolo swap they could use to find Brady's replacement, who they might not need until 2020.
Belichick is nothing but a realist, and this film is not a mirage. It's time to start making some trade calls. It's time to trade a quarterback.
Ravens going nowhere on offense
This is the Baltimore Ravens' drive chart for the first half of their past two games:
Against the Jaguars: 18 total plays, 28 yards, 8:10 time of possession, down 23-0.
Against the Steelers: 23 total plays, 69 yards, 10:48 time of possession, down 20-0:
That is the definition of an atrocious offense. Joe Flacco is a big part of the problem. Receivers cannot separate. The offensive line is not good and has already been crippled by injuries.
This is not going to get much better. They won two games when the defense turned over opposing quarterbacks 10 times, and since then they've done pretty much nothing in terms of moving the football.
That's 60 minutes of football chronicled above, over two weeks, with Baltimore holding the ball just under 19 minutes, scoring no points and amassing just 97 yards on 42 plays. That's an unfathomable 2.3 yards per play. That's the kind of stuff that gets people fired.
Flacco's contract essentially dictates he is there through the 2018 season, but this unit is going to need sweeping changes if this keeps up.
Cowboys get away from a winning formula
The Cowboys had a simple blueprint to expose the Rams' vulnerability stopping the run, and sufficient volume (35-40 carries as a team) probably wins them the game.
Dallas ran 17 times for a whopping 133 yards in the first half of what was always a close game, but, nursing an eight-point lead at one point, called just 10 runs the rest of the game. They still averaged 5.6 per rush on those 10 runs, and ran for 7.8 yards in the game (27 carries for 189 yards), but the defense was exposed by Jared Goff, and coordinator Scott Linehan didn't get the ball in Zeke Elliott's hands enough.
Of all the surprises in a wacky first quarter of the season, the Rams' 3-1 start ranks way up there for me. They'll be a factor in that division.
The Bills look different
I know I keep banging this drum, but watch the intensity and ferocity of Bills coach Sean McDermott on the sidelines from the start of the game until the end, regardless of result. It is infectious, and this team has become resilient and impassioned with Rex Ryan's laid-back regime over.
Buffalo manhandled Atlanta from a physical standpoint Sunday, handing them their first home loss in their new stadium and making a statement to the rest of the league as well. Tyrod Taylor is a far better quarterback than he gets credit for, and the Bills might just give the Patriots a run in the AFC East, as crazy as that would have sounded, say, five weeks ago
Steelers turn things around
The Steelers, after their debacle handling the anthem in Week 3, needed a good showing in Baltimore to put some bad feelings and unrest behind them. They got it, and they're going to win the AFC North by at least three games, and probably many more than that.
Le'Veon Bell is back. Dude had almost 200 total yards on a Baltimore defense that has been on the field for two straight games. The return of Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt were huge boosts for the Steelers as well. No way they were gonna get gashed like did without them in Chicago last week.
More from Week 4
- Miami's schedule is going to continue to do them no favors. They finally head home, back from a drubbing in London, to face a wounded Titans team is no easy assignment. The Dolphins still haven't played a real home game yet. And Jay Cutler isn't getting any younger or better.
- Pencil in Deshaun Watson for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He is playing transformational football right now and looks comfortable as can be. When he steps into a throw, he looks as good as anyone in the league.
- The Titans' defense has to be a cause for concern. They were going with an overmatched three-man rush against Watson, their secondary is prone to lapses and Marcus Mariota is dealing with (this time just a hamstring, but still). If they have to play Matt Cassel for even a few weeks at any point this season, they are cooked. He was brutal Sunday.
- When it's all said and done, Arizona might have the worst offensive line in the NFL, which is saying something. They are completely compromised as an offensive football team.
- The Bucs may need to find themselves a new center immediately. If you can't snap the ball, you can't run your offense. Between that, and a woeful kicking situation, Tampa is going to give away some games this season it should otherwise win easily.
- Told you guys a week ago the Jets were about to go on a three-game winning streak. They get the Browns -- the worst team in football next week -- and they and the Bills could have a better record than the Patriots by this time next week. Go figure.