By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Among the many reactions to Monday night’s Jimmy Garoppolo trade was a concern being expressed by many that the Patriots are in a much worse position in the event of a Tom Brady injury.
That is true. Garoppolo showed in very limited action that he’s capable of making plays in the NFL, and he was probably among the best backup quarterbacks in the league.
Yet it’s a point that probably should not be belabored as it relates to the 2017 Patriots. If they’re going to win the Super Bowl, they’re going to do so on the back of Brady. Even with Garoppolo on the roster, a long-term Brady injury would have been devastating to the Patriots’ Super Bowl chances.
Now, if Brady were to be forced to miss a few games, you’d rather have Garoppolo than — say — Brian Hoyer starting those games. Bye weeks and home-field advantage may be at stake. But, well, aside from a torn ACL and MCL in 2008, Brady hasn’t ever missed a football game due to injury in his NFL career.
From Week 3 in 2001 through Week 1 in 2008, Brady started 111 of a possible 111 games.
From Week 1 in 2009 through Week 8 in 2017, Brady has started 132 of a possible 136 games — only missing time for some hogwash suspension in 2016.
Along the way throughout that entire career, he’s also started all 34 of the Patriots’ playoff games, only missing one half of the AFC title game in 2001.
Tally it up, and of the 296 Patriots games since Brady became the No. 1 QB, he has started 277 of them. And he hasn’t missed a game due to injury since nine years ago.
In total, of the 9,377 passes thrown by Patriots quarterbacks since the start of the 2001 season, Brady has thrown 8,530 of them, which comes out to 91 percent of all Patriots passes over a 17-season span.
The point is: the Patriots will be in trouble if Brady goes down. But of all the things to worry about regarding the 2017 Patriots, losing Brady should be relatively low on the list.
To really drive it home, here’s a list of all of the backup quarterbacks on the Patriots’ rosters in Super Bowl-winning seasons.
As previously mentioned, Bledsoe proved vital when he entered that 2001 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, completing 10 of 21 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback depth chart was obviously in a unique position that season, when Brady took Bledsoe’s job and kept it once Bledsoe regained his health. So that year is the outlier.
In 2003, Davey threw seven total passes. Huard threw one.
In 2004, Davey threw a whopping 10 passes.
In 2014, when Brady was 36 years old and theoretically in need of a few plays off, Garoppolo threw just 27 passes.
And in 2016, after Brady returned from suspension, Garoppolo threw four total passes. Brissett threw zero.
In terms of postseason contributions, after Bledsoe threw those 21 passes in Pittsburgh, backup quarterbacks have thrown exactly zero playoff passes for the Patriots.
With just two playoff pass attempts, Julian Edelman has been used more as a postseason quarterback than every single Patriots backup quarterback since 2003.
The point, if it’s not clear yet, is simple: the 2017 Patriots are all about Tom Brady. But the Patriots have always been all about Tom Brady. Not since 2001 has a Patriots backup contributed to a championship season while Brady was on the active roster, and when that happened, it was a nine-year veteran with 123 starts and nearly 30,000 passing yards to his name. Since then? Nothing.
It’s all about Brady. Same as it ever was.