Give me six words that are guaranteed to piss off a New Englander?
You're right. "Do that ‘pahhhhk yahhh cahhhh' thing . . ." is irritating.
But I was actually fishing for, "Tom Brady is a system quarterback . . ."
For a generation, smooth-brained mouth-breathers from around our great nation have used those six words on us like a can of mace.
The words sting. For a second. Then we, being who we are, respond with a stream of profanities and direct smoothbrain to a motherlode of sites jammed with stats and anecdotes which will prove them irreparably wrong and convince them to quit the internet altogether.
But they don't quit. They keep on.
For many around here, the first half of the 2019 NFL has provided the best proof yet that Tom Brady is not a system quarterback.
Different teams, different schemes, same results. It's being put forth as proof that the Patriots are so good at finding talent and developing it that they can practically leave franchise quarterbacks on other team's doorsteps and they will flourish in their new homes.
Their success seems to debunk that there's a system. Actually, it doesn't. It's just that the system isn't what people think it is.
Garoppolo, Brissett and - a decade ago - Matt Cassel all proved that the Patriots' system revolves around development off the field more than play on the field. Brady was, in some ways, the prototype.
All of them apprenticed under a very good or even great quarterback. Brees had Doug Flutie in San Diego, Mahomes had Alex Smith, Rodgers had Brett Favre, Jackson had Joe Flacco. Go back further. Joe Montana had Steve DeBerg in front of him for a season-and-a-half. Steve Young was behind Montana. Brett Favre sat for more than a season. Brady, of course, had Drew Bledsoe.
"There is something to be said about giving young quarterbacks the opportunity to develop and learn under veteran quarterbacks," said Cassel. "Speaking from my own experience, having the ability to observe and absorb how Tom approached everything from watching film, the questions he would ask in meetings during the week, physical preparation, interaction with teammates and media, all of it helped me in my development when my opportunity final came in 2008.
"In addition, I believe it also depends on who that veteran QB is and their willingness to help," added Cassel. "Some guys are threatened by guys who are there to take their job and maybe not as enthusiastic about mentoring."
Are there quarterbacks who don't "apprentice" that still find success? Of course. Some players are so obviously superior to the quarterback in place - especially highly-drafted quarterbacks - they find themselves thrown into the fire. Peyton Manning and John Elway both went that route. But spending a season (or three, as Garoppolo did) being a sponge is invaluable if you're sopping up the right information.
"Sitting in meetings with Brady and (offensive coordinator Josh) McDaniels help you to understand defensive scheme, and situational football," said Cassel. "As a result, when you go to another organization you have a great foundation how to be success and what is expected of you at the position."
Which, it appears, is the case with both Garoppolo and Brissett. While Brissett's stint in New England was brief - he was traded to the Colts at the end of August in 2017 after one season - he also had the benefit of being in the same quarterback room as Andrew Luck and watching how he did things.
Mike Shanahan knows quarterbacks. He came up in coaching with the Broncos and John Elway and coached Denver to back-to-back Super Bowls. Now, as a consultant to his son, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, he has the opportunity to observe Garoppolo.
Shanahan agrees that the apprenticeship Garoppolo served made a major impact.
"Any time you're around a guy like Tom Brady and you see the way he works, you get a chance to see everything and understand," said Shanahan. "The preparation and install of the offense, seeing how he handles the offseason program, training camp, film breakdown, defenses, preparing for games. Not only talking about plays but talking about defenses and concepts. You're with him the whole time and immersed in that and that experience, it speaks volumes. Then you add a head coach (Bill Belichick) who knows exactly what he's doing on both sides of the ball and special teams.
"It's before the season, it's the regular season, it's playoffs," Shanahan added. "You see how he handles the media, the off-field responsibilities, his role in the game plan."
What kind of quarterbacks would Garoppolo and Brissett be today if they hadn't been drafted by the Patriots and had to sit behind Brady? Would they be starters? Would they have gotten their chance and not been ready for it?
There's no way of knowing. But the anecdotal evidence is hard to ignore. The Patriots are in their system and it's had a major impact.
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