For 4 years now, Ryan Mallett has had the easiest job in the NFL; backup to Patriots QB Tom Brady. Since the Patriots drafted Mallett in the 3rd round in 2011, he has had the opportunity to learn under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady but without needing to do any heavy lifting. Brady has played every meaningful snap in that span and there has been no viable backup other than Mallett available for the Patriots.
That is until Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots decided to draft Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft. But even before the pick was in, Ryan Mallett trade rumors were frequent. Mallett seemed to be following the Matt Cassel path and Patriots media, fans and perhaps Patriots personnel wondered if they could get anything good for Mallett. When the Texans did not take a QB #1 overall, people wondered if former Patriot coordinator Bill O’Brien and Belichick had a plan in place for Mallett. Some of us wondered if we would soon see Andre Johnson in a Patriots jersey (wishful thinking).
Yet the signing of Garoppolo could be good for Ryan Mallett. Garoppolo could challenge Mallett, bringing out the best in him. Mallett could rise to the occasion and in the 2014 NFL Preseason he could solidify his place as a valuable backup QB, which has become an important role (see: Matt Flynn, Josh McCown, Kirk Cousins…) or he could get his chance with another team as a starting QB, just like Cassel.
But after week 2 of the preseason, have we seen enough from Ryan Mallett to believe that he could keep the Patriots alive should he ever need to? Or to believe that he could lead another NFL franchise into the future?
From all accounts Ryan Mallett has not played terrible. In the Patriots first preseason game against the Washington Redskins, Mallett was 5-12 for 55 yards. Rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo played better. And on Friday we saw Mallett vs. the Philadelphia Eagles and despite an injury that kept him out of practice the week prior, Mallett played better. Mallett finished 7-11 with 92 passing yards and 2 TDs (1 passing, 1 rushing). His TD pass to the Patriots preseason star Brian Tyms and a beautiful throw to WR Josh Boyce stood out in an ultimately pretty exciting game against the Eagles.
But was it enough? Are we any more confident in Ryan Mallett to put the game on his shoulders and make plays if need be?
What it comes down to is really the future of the franchise. What has made the New England Patriots the New England Patriots is consistency. Consistent effort, consistent performance and consistent success. Has Ryan Mallett shown enough of that consistency? Certainly not. Did Tom Brady before Drew Bledsoe was suddenly knocked out of the 2001 season (and ultimately out of the Patriots starting QB job)? Same answer.
Ryan Mallett may not be the future of the Patriots franchise, and Jimmy Garoppolo might not be either. It’s not always something you can design on purpose (Aaron Rodgers is not the norm) but I’m not willing to give up on either at this point. Here’s to hoping we don’t have to find out any time soon. Keep 3 QBs on the roster Bill.