Living in the football-mad region of New England, Monday morning quarterbacking is legion. Of course, those Monday morning discussions soon turn into Tuesday and Wednesday discussions extending throughout the day on Boston radio stations, all revolving around the QB position. That’s because in New England, football talk centers on one of the best in the history of the game.
To top it all off, starting last season, with all the hoopla about ball inflation and the National Football League’s “gotcha’” approach towards that quarterback—and this year’s continuation—as Tom Brady begins the 2016 season serving a four-game suspension, there’s no backing off discussions about the quarterback. The wrinkle this year is that in addition to Brady, we’re now talking Garoppolo, too.
Across the NFL, you won’t get much of an argument from the 31 other places outside of New England that the Patriots are not well-liked—and articles like this one, and this one (and a host of others) intimate that the team is hated by just about everyone else save those of us who love the red, white, and blue. So be it.
Similar to the anticipation that baseball fans feel prior to Opening Day, the NFL’s first week has football fans equally jacked-up. And this year, when New England’s football team boarded their plane for the desert of Arizona, minus TB12, as well as Rob Gronkowski (and two starting offensive tackles), Pats-haters could be forgiven for doing just a little dancing—New England and their coach, Bill Belichick, would be facing a strong team without their quarterback and field general and leader. I expect that many of the haters had visions of an 0-4 record dancing in their empty heads, beginning with a game one loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Well, for one week at least, talk of New England’s demise can be put on hold. The Brady-less Patriots beat a team that was favored and I’d even say, over-hyped, albeit one with a strong defense and a high-octane receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, and a mercurial veteran quarterback in Carson Palmer who, when he’s on, can light up anyone’s secondary.
The story line for some following the Patriots’ improbable opening night victory remains centered on that the Cardinals couldn’t kick the game-winning field goal (field goals aren’t automatic in places that aren’t named New England). Another arc might be that Arizona didn’t play with the same passion and even desperation that New England did. Were they flat because they figured that they’d game plan Garoppolo into being a non-factor?
One thing New England football fans know for sure (and astute football fans elsewhere also recognize) is that Bill Belichick rarely gets outcoached. Sunday night’s win was another example among a scrapbook full of examples of Belichick’s genius as a coach, who on most game days (or nights) has his teams ready for whatever they’re likely to run up against.
And how about that new quarterback in town, Garoppolo? Not bad for his first NFL start, after serving as Brady’s understudy for the past three seasons. With a name that has some pizzazz, combined with an arm and some running ability, I’d say this bodes well for the next three games, too. In fact, he looked Brady-esque enough during the team’s 23-21 win on Sunday night that a region seemed to experience a collective exhale, and simply enjoyed watching football again.
New Englanders are feeling kind of giddy with one down, and three to go before Brady’s return. The rest of the league might have to wait just a bit longer for the demise of Bill Belichick’s team.