Jimmy Garoppolo’s Injury Likely Ends His Moment of Glory

Garoppolo excelling with the Patriots in Tom Brady's absence was on track to become an all-time sports story.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Image via AP

While most of New England has been been lamenting the Deflategate saga, Jimmy Garoppolo has spent his time preparing. After more than a year of litigation, including the vacating and reinstatement of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, Garoppolo finally received his chance to start this season—and couldn’t have performed better.

Midway through Sunday’s win against the Miami Dolphins, Garoppolo was playing as well as any quarterback in the league. He lit up the scoreboard in the first quarter, throwing for three touchdowns and 177 yards. It was the most prolific performance from a Patriots QB in the opening period in 15 years. It was basically an inspirational movie montage brought to life—cue the dramatic music, teary family members, etc.

But then linebacker Kiko Alonso drove Garoppolo’s shoulder into the ground as he was rolling right, possibly halting his coming out party.

After undergoing hours of tests at a Boston-area hospital, some reports indicate Garoppolo might be able to return for a matchup against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4, one game before Brady is eligible to play. But others, such as Comcast SportsNet’s Mike Giardi, say he’ll probably miss three to four weeks. Regardless, there’s little dispute that Garoppolo will almost certainly be sidelined for Thursday’s contest against the Houston Texans with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder, meaning rookie Jacoby Brissett will be tasked with leading the Patriots in primetime.

Through one and a half games this season, Garoppolo has completed 70 percent of his passes (42-of-60) for 498 yards, four touchdowns and 0 interceptions. There was no greater revenge on Roger Goodell than Garoppolo’s stellar play. Yeah, you can take Brady away for a quarter of the season, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots will keep on rolling. That mission suddenly becomes a lot more difficult with Brissett under center.

The third-round pick out of North Carolina State was passable in his NFL debut, completing 6 of 9 throws for 92 yards. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels appeared to significantly dumb down the playbook, setting up Brissett to primarily throw screen passes and short slants over the middle of the field.

He wasn’t helped by a lackluster defense. The Patriots nearly blew the 24-7 lead that they spotted Brissett, as the Dolphins outscored them 21-7 in the second half. The offensive MVP (and, frankly, gif MVP) was running back LeGarrette Blount, who gained 123 yards on 29 carries and scored New England’s lone touchdown in the final two quarters.

The Patriots are now 2-2.5-point underdogs against the Texans Thursday, which is only the third time since 2005 they haven’t been favored in a home game. If Garoppolo were in there, talk would likely be centered around his dominance, with even a few folks probably wondering what would happen if Brady falters when he returns. This is the NFL, where veteran stars are callously disregarded for younger alternatives on a regular basis. Garoppolo, who will be a free agent after the 2017 campaign, was playing like an All-Pro. It wasn’t outlandish to start to wonder if the Patriots wouldn’t just look to deal Garoppolo for a bevy of draft picks this offseason, but also explore the trade market for a 39-year-old Brady.

But that’s a storyline for another day. At this point, it’s all about survival. The Patriots will try to eke out a win against the vaunted Texans defense Thursday and Garoppolo will work to return for Week 4—where he’ll still likely be compromised by his ailing shoulder even if he does play.

The NFL is often referred to as “Not For Long.” That adage never seemed more true than in the immediate moments after Garoppolo was slammed to the turf, walking off the field with medical professionals instead of elated teammates.