Patriots primed to survive Tom Brady suspension – ESPN

6 months ago Comments Off on Patriots primed to survive Tom Brady suspension – ESPN

The NFL’s on-again, off-again suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady flipped to the “on” switch Monday morning. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals reinstated Brady’s four-game suspension resulting from the Deflategate incident, arguing that the league and commissioner Roger Goodell acted within the rules of the collective bargaining agreement in suspending Brady for a quarter of the regular season. Just when we were getting a little short on off-field intrigue, right?

To some extent, this isn’t a surprise. As the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport pointed out on Twitter, Brady dropped his base salary from $9 million to $1 million as part of his new contract restructuring/extension, which means he’ll only lose $250,000 as part of a four-game suspension as opposed to $2.25 million. Oral arguments suggested that the NFL’s chances of winning the appeal were strong.

The case will undoubtedly continue through the legal system, but the current lay of the land suggests that Brady will miss the first four games of 2016, so let’s approach the Patriots’ state of affairs with that likelihood in mind. Are they doomed? Does this dramatically shift the balance of power in the AFC East or the AFC as a whole?

We can’t predict the future, of course, but most evidence indicates that the dropoff from Brady to backup Jimmy Garoppolo won’t be quite the doomsday scenario one could have in mind. When Brady was due to be suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season, I looked into this very topic for Grantland and found that the difference between four games of Brady and four games of Garoppolo was a little more than a half-win, and the Vegas over/under line for the Patriots’ full-season win total moved by a similar amount.

The idea of going from a Hall of Fame quarterback like Brady to a relatively inexperienced backup like Garoppolo seems like it would inspire an enormous swing, but the reality is that the Patriots are well-equipped to handle such adversity. Even without Brady, they have a defense that was above-average by DVOA last year despite losing stars like Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty for parts of the season with injuries. And barring an offseason injury, New England’s offensive infrastructure — notably Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman — will both be in the lineup to start the year, when Garoppolo would be forced into the lineup.

It also helps that the coaching staff will still be there. The Patriots still have Bill Belichick, one of the finest coaches in all of football. And while there could have been serious concerns about how Garoppolo might operate behind an offensive line that was patchwork at best for most of last season, the Patriots were also able to convince legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to come out of retirement this offseason, which should provide the best possible protection for the Eastern Illinois product.

Garoppolo will also benefit from having time to take reps with the first-team offense during practice. Research I’ve done in the past suggests that quarterbacks who come in off of the bench mid-game play about 10 percent worse than when they start the game. While Brady will still take plenty of practice reps during the preseason, Garoppolo will get four weeks as the No. 1 guy in practice at the beginning of the year. Remember that when the Patriots lost Brady for the year to a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2008 season, a virtually untested Matt Cassel came into the lineup for the remainder of the year. Cassel struggled at first, but once he grew more comfortable in what had previously been the most powerful offense in league history, his numbers improved:

Patriots primed to survive Tom Brady suspension – ESPN

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