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For over a decade, the Patriots have never had to worry about two things: head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Belichick has shown no signs of letting up, finishing first in the AFC East ten out of his thirteen seasons with the Patriots (’00 first season finished 5th, ’02 finished 2nd, ’08 finished 2nd without Brady). Looking at age, Tom Coughlin, the head coach of the New York Giants, has had success of late and will be 67 years old when the next NFL season kicks off (Belichick will be 61). It is safe to say we will have to deal with a Brady-less Patriots team before we see the head coach leave (don’t even dare let the thought of losing both at the same time creep into your mind).
With that said, how many years does Brady have left? His current contract keeps him with the team until the 2018 season, when he will then become an unrestricted free agent at the age of 41. It is now realistic to begin looking at finding a new successor for the all-time franchise QB.
Other teams had backup plans for their aging legends. Steve Young backed up Montana for four years in San Francisco, shining at times when the latter was injured. In 2005, the Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers with the mindset of grooming him to become the eventual starter once Brett Favre decided to retire. Once 2008 rolled around, Rodgers became the starter and made it easy for Packers fans to move on from Favre, who quarterbacked their franchise for 16 seasons. Many felt that the drafting of Ryan Mallett was (and still is) the Patriots equivalent to Rodgers. If that is the case, are the Patriots better off handing over the controls of the offense to Mallett in 2014 (99.9% of people would say you’re nuts if you think so)?
The Patriots drafted Mallett in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft because they had the resources to do so. Looking at this year’s quarterback class, Mallett could easily have slid right in after Geno Smith as the second best quarterback available. This doesn’t mean teams that need a quarterback are going to trade a 1st round pick to acquire him, but it’s not far-fetched for the Patriots to receive a 2nd rounder for his services. Knowing the Patriots only have five selections this year (and they will possibly lose another if they sign Emanuel Sanders), they may be inclined to take a 3rd rounder if offered. Nonetheless, Mallett is not the future of the New England Patriots.
Seeing that the best way to transition from one successful franchise quarterback to the next is to have at least 3-4 years of grooming, the Patriots, in a sense, jumped the gun. In the next year or two, the Patriots will have to make the choice of drafting the quarterback of the future and grooming him, or going cold turkey (like the Colts did with getting Andrew Luck).
Without further ado, let’s look at the possibilities…
College Prospects (QB’s that would take 3-4 years to develop):
Incoming Freshman Prospects (if the Patriots wait until the last minute):
High School Prospect (if the Patriots wait until after Brady retires…):