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Brady vs. Garoppolo: A comparison

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The Patriots chose Tom Brady over Jimmy Garoppolo. Was that a mistake?

Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

By trading Jimmy GQ, Boston chose to hang on to their great incumbent quarterback, Tom Brady, rather than transition to his protege. How do the two compare, head to head?

Measurements

Some differences are unquestionable. Garoppolo is younger (26 vs 40) and has more future potential, but Brady may well be the best -- or at least most accomplished -- QB in NFL history. So far.

While they both weigh 225, the old man is two inches taller (at 6’4”, a more prototypical pro quarterback height) and has five Super Bowl rings, which he personally made happen, versus the two rings that Garoppolo was handed for watching Brady win.

Then again, JG is currently earning twice as much money as TB12 — though that’s by the latter’s choice, to enable a better roster — and he even got more playoff bonus money this year as a (half-year) Patriot. Also, he’s better looking, and as far as we know, deflates no footballs.

The real question, though, is in football skills, both the technical abilities (arm strength, accuracy, mobility) and the intangible ones (leadership, presence, rising to the big game occasion).

Intangibles

The intangibles are very hard to predict for Garoppolo, though early results are excellent.

During Brady’s suspension, and this year joining a bad Niners team mid-season, he rose to the occasion and was plenty big for the moment. Garoppolo made everyone about him instantly better, and executed a complicated offense that he barely knew, and had mastered quickly.

Most notably, he won. With essentially the same roster (save a few injuries and a couple of savvy mid-season pickups), Garoppolo took over a 1-10 team, and proceeded to win five games in a row. Three of those five victims were playoff teams.

The toughest of them, the Jacksonville Jaguars, provide an interesting contrast, especially since their strength was on defense — a tough test for either QB. The Jags played the 49ers and Patriots about a month apart. Brady won, 24-20, and was 26-38 for 290 yards, 2 TDs and no INTs — numbers inflated by the fact that he needed a 4th quarter comeback to win. Garoppolo was 21-30 for 242 yards, 2 TDs thrown and another run in, plus one interception.

You might call that a small advantage to Brady, but those numbers ignore a key point: Garoppolo lit up the Jaguars for 44 points, the most they gave up all year. New England punted six times; the Niners, only three. Against the same defense, he had a much stronger showing.

That’s all fabulous, but Jimmy needs to do all of that for 15 straight years before he can consider himself on Mr. Bündchen’s level. So far so good, but it’s far too early to make any judgments.

Football Skills

The fairest comparisons between the two involve on-the-field football skills. Garoppolo is more athletic, though he hasn’t scrambled to any good effect yet (15 carries for 11 yards this year). The young’un is somewhat more accurate (67.4% vs. 66.3%) and deeper throwing (8.76 vs. 7.88 YPA).

This came with a notably weaker supporting cast, both on the line and in the receiving corps, though San Francisco arguably had better running backs.

Garoppolo’s biggest flaw is interceptions, with five in 178 attempts (2.8%). Brady had just eight in 19 starts (820 attempts, or less than 1%). That’s offset by a bit of fumbleitis, though, as we saw at the end of the Super Bowl. Brady had six in 1,186 snaps (0.51%), while Jimmy put just one ball on the ground in 351 snaps (0.28%).

New England’s attack has long been built around a quick-passing game that makes it hard to sack Brady. But surprisingly, the student may have surpassed his master on this score. On the NFL Network, Bucky Brooks identified his quick release as one area Garoppolo is better.

It’s difficult to document that, even with Next Gen Statistics, given their different offenses and offensive lines. Kyle Shanahan’s scheme takes more shots downfield, for example, drawing out the length of plays. Statistically, their “times to throw” are very similar, 2.72 vs. 2.70, and in the bottom half of league QBs. But that’s not the best number to prove QB quality, since Blaine Gabbert and Brian Hoyer led the league this year.

Consistency

For all these skills, the trait that defines a franchise quarterback is consistency. I covered Brady in two joint training camps between the Eagles and Patriots (2014 and 2015), and he was astonishing in his flawless accuracy and ability to read the field during drills and scrimmages. His throws not only connected, they always hit receivers perfectly in stride for extra yards after catch. He always saw the most open receiver, anywhere on the field. Always. Even the most jaded, 20-year-veteran Philly sports writers were slack-jawed.

Now that I think about it, Garoppolo was in both of those training camps too, but obviously he got fewer reps, and I don’t remember seeing or hearing a word about him.

Ultimately, it is Brady’s insanely consistent level of accuracy — on top of all his other gifts — that has made him a legend. That will be the hardest thing for Jimmy Garoppolo to match (or surpass), and it will be years before we know whether he can. But it will be fun as hell to watch.