Start the popcorn popping.
NFL fans may be in for quite a show in the next month as the New England Patriots begin their drive for a sixth Super Bowl victory.
Or maybe not. But the anticipation keeps things interesting.
At first glance, the Patriots appear to have an easy road to the title.
Their first opponent, Tennessee, lost three of their last four games. And both their possible second opponents are vulnerable. Pittsburgh has lost its best defensive player, Ryan Shazier, and its defense has a history of being carved up by Tom Brady. The other possible opponent, Jacksonville, has probably the league’s best defense, but is quarterbacked by Blake Bortles.
In the NFC, the best team, Philadelphia, lost its quarterback. Carson Wentz, and is an underdog at home against Atlanta, which collapsed against the Patriots last year. And the Patriots would be favored over the other two teams, New Orleans and Minnesota.
So another Patriots championship seems destined.
But what if it doesn’t happen? What if something goes wrong?
What is Brady gets hurt or has an off day?
What if they lose one of the next three games?
Oh, we will then need more popcorn.
All the talk will be about why did they give away Jimmy Garoppolo for a second round pick instead of keeping him the rest of the year? Or why didn’t they franchise him next year to have him as a security blanket for two years? With some maneuvering, they could have gotten his franchise number under the cap.
We may never know the true answer but ESPN suggested recently that owner Bob Kraft decided he wanted Jimmy G. traded.
But why did Belichick give him away? He could have gotten a bidding war going and got multiple picks? Was it in a fit of pique because the owner was getting involved? Does he figure he will retire when Brady does and leave the ensuing mess in Kraft’s lap now that he doesn’t have Jimmy G. waiting in the wings? Never underestimate Belichick being petty. The ESPN article read as if Belichick or one of his minions leaked a lot of it.
As veteran Boston writer Ron Borges wrote, Bill Parcells once told him coaches are just pebbles on the beach who can be tossed away. The owners have all the power. Belichick got a reminder of that and probably didn’t like it.
It also hasn’t gone unnoticed that Brady hasn’t been Brady like the last five games, despite a 4-1 record. His quarterback rating in those games has been 81.6, 17th in the NFL. His touchdown-interception rating has been 6-5. In the first 11, it was 26-3.
If that continues, he will be more under the microscope and there will be questions about whether he is slowing down.
Anyway, if Jimmy G. winds up winning Super Bowls in San Francisco while the Patriots are scrambling for quarterback after Brady retires, it will always be remembered as one of the worst moves in franchise history.
That is why there is so much pressure on the two BBs and Kraft to win this year.
Even if they do, they will be scrambling to find their quarterback of the future. Brian Hoyer obviously won’t fit that role.
Still the giveaway of Jimmy G shows how egos can become too big and cause major blunders.
Keep that popcorn popping. It could be a rocky ride. The Pats have had quite a ride. Will it end badly?