The New England Patriots lost starter Jimmy Garoppolo to injury Sunday after losing starter Tom Brady to suspension before the season. Even the Patriots show that the next-man-up philosophy works better in theory than in practice from time to time.
After Garoppolo threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns on an 18-of-27 day passing in less than a half of football, rookie Jacoby Brissett went 6-for-9 with no picks and no scores. The numbers belie the play. The kid, like most rookies, didn’t look like an NFL quarterback at times. The system can set up a guy to succeed only so much. Miami stacking the box allowed Brissett to throw against a secondary of secondary concern for a team looking primarily to stop the run. Brissett entered the game up 24-3. He escaped it with a 31-24 victory after a two-seconds-left, end-zone interception of a Ryan Tannehill pass by Duron Harmon.
Brissett starts on Thursday against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. Who backs up the backup to the backup if he goes down? The New England Patriots entered Sunday with just two quarterbacks. The team’s practice squad does not feature a QB. Slot receiver Julian Edelman, who played QB for Kent State, served as Plan D if an emergency demanded it on Sunday.
So, the Pats need to sign a backup quarterback. Fast.
What veteran signal caller could come in and grasp the Patriots system with three days notice? Fiftysomethings Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie? QB genius Peyton Manning? Drew Bledsoe? Of all the crazy scenarios thrown about New England, the one dismissed as the craziest strikes as the most sane: Tim Tebow.
While the local cable sports channel mentioned the possibility as a punchline, Tebow makes sense for a lot of reasons for the New England Patriots.
He knows the system. Tebow played a preseason with the Patriots. He won a playoff game in Denver under head coach Josh McDaniels, the once and present offensive coordinator in Foxboro. And he played on two national championship teams at Florida, which served as a kind of feeding school for Bill Belichick-coached teams back when Urban Meyer coached the Gators. Bill Belichick, like Urban Meyer, employs the spread offense.
Not only does it help to bring in a guy who already knows the system on three days notice, but it boosts your chances if the QB you bring in can play a simple game. Tebow runs, rolls out, and breaks it open on broken plays. If your third-stringer falls to injury too, Tebow can move the football using schoolyard football techniques. Nobody goes to the Super Bowl on this style of play. But if you bring in a guy 72 hours before a game, it helps if his game does not require sophistication, infinite audibles, and a phone-book-sized playbook.
Sure, Tebow traded in his football helmet for a baseball glove. And yeah, football fans last saw him, before Philadelphia and New England cut him, holding a clipboard for the New York Jets back in 2012. But he fits the Patriots better than Jimmy Clausen, Sean Renfree, and several of the other names mentioned.
Alas, Tim Tebow reports to the New York Mets instructional league on Monday. The Mets let D.J. Dozier compete in their system as he played for the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings. Surely a quarter-century later they could spare another collegiate football national champion for two weeks as he dons his shoulder pads for the last time before Tom Brady returns, right?
Oh, well. There’s always Michael Vick.