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Who will replace Tomy Brady when he retires?

William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

By Ryan Decker for Now on Deck

Not that anyone should be asking New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick or any other members of the Patriots this, but as fans and reporters watched young Jimmy Garoppolo be very effective Sunday night in the surprising win over the Arizona Cardinals in Arizona, the question had to be in the back of some people’s mind.

Is Jimmy Garoppolo going to be the guy that takes over in New England when Tom Brady finally decides to call it a career?

At face value it sounds like an absurd question.

You think, no way the Patriots, the class of the National Football League for the last two decades (in terms of winning), would have the heir to the Brady throne be a guy who isn’t already an established winner. Why take the risk with someone who, outside the first four weeks of this season, may not throw another meaningful pass in the NFL for the next two, three, even four years, and who will be sitting on the sideline as Brady and the rest of the starters march towards another shot at the Lombardi Trophy?

Why not, though?

It worked with the Green Bay Packers as that bad man himself Aaron Rodgers took over for everyone’s favorite gunslinger Brett Favre.

It worked in New England, for goodness sakes, as Brady took over for the established Drew Bledsoe. By now we all know Brady was basically a no-name sixth round pick when he permanently stepped onto the field in 2001.

Garoppolo was drafted in the second round by the Pats in 2014. That’s three times better than where Brady was selected.

So maybe Garoppolo is the future answer.

He did look pretty good against the Cardinals defense, which has been among the best in the league over the past few seasons.

I’m here to tell you no, though. Sorry for leading you on.

Garoppolo isn’t the answer. The answer isn’t on the Patriots roster. Nor is he even in the NFL.

Brady, who at 39 years old and has somehow seemed to get better with age, is signed through the 2019 season. That means he’ll be 42 when his current contract expires.

That’s one year older than what Favre was when he officially called it a career. The last time; not the first couple.

Father Time is still undefeated, with greats like Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and David Ortiz all calling it quits within the last year. But Father Time seems to be getting soft in his own old age.

Manning went out on top of the football world in February with a Super Bowl victory. Bryant scored a season-high 60 points in the final game of his career. Ortiz is putting together a final year unlike anything we’ve ever seen before for the Red Sox.

The point in all this being, if recent history tells us anything, it’s that Brady probably won’t be hanging up his cleats anytime soon. Meanwhile, Garoppolo sits and waits.

Unless the unthinkable happens, when Jimmy G’s contract runs out at the end of next year, the Patriots will have a slight decision to make. Do you re-sign Garoppolo or go back to the drawing board in terms of replacement for “Tommy Terrific”?

Belichick and company won’t re-sign Garoppolo if Brady still looks like he can lead the team. Health is rarely an issue with Brady, and if he continues missing games due to suspension or playing like a man possessed because he’s PO’d at the league, New England will be fine moving forward.

The Patriots next starting quarterback is on a college team somewhere. He may not even be starting for his team this year.

When his name is called during the 2017 or 2018 NFL draft, you may think to yourself, Eh, he’s just a backup quarterback. But stop for a moment and think, that’s what people thought 17 or 18 years ago when Brady was taken with the 199th pick.

And he’s turned out to be a little more important than that.

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