The latest chapter in the ongoing docudrama that is the Tom Brady free agency saga, instinctively belongs in the fairytale section of your local book store.
It’s like the ending to a Disney movie.
After 20 world dominating years in New England, the six-time Super Bowl champion finishes his illustrious NFL career back in his childhood home playing for the most complete team in the league -- his childhood favorite San Francisco 49ers. And to ease the pain felt throughout the region, Bill Belichick finagles a deal for the one true and only chosen successor to Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, who finds his way home to Foxboro in what could be Belichick’s final stroke of NFL genius.
Walt Disney himself would be proud.
Is it too good to be true? Probably. Everything would have to fall right, that’s for sure. Including the 49ers finding their way to trade Garoppolo back to New England who would have to beat any one of at least ten quarterback needy teams that could make compelling offers. Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville and Indianapolis all come to mind just to name a handful.
When I first heard the chatter of this rumor on Wednesday, it felt like a dream scenario in every sense. A dream, literally. Maybe a pipe dream.
Then something occurred to me, San Francisco has a quarterback to move.
Not gone but mostly forgotten is 49ers backup Nick Mullens.
You may recall the little known Mullens stepped into the 49ers’ starting lineup when Garoppolo went down with a torn ACL in September of 2018. If you forgot or didn’t know, he made a notable impact in his first and only NFL opportunity.
Mullens can play and unlike the current backup on the Patriots Jarret Stidham, Mullens has proven to have some value at the NFL level and did so with a fledgling San Francisco team at the time. More impressively, when the 2018 season started, Mullens was on the practice squad and wasn’t even promoted to the active 53-man roster until late September after Garoppolo went down. The guy wasn’t even getting legitimate practice reps and yet, mostly handled his business on game days. Mullens finished with a 3-5 record for San Fran in his eight starts but held his own, compiling decent passing stats while showing signs of legitimate NFL efficiency.
Mullens ended 2018 completing 176 passes in 274 attempts for a completion percentage of 64.2 percent while throwing for 2,277 yards. He threw 13 touchdown passes and had 10 interceptions for a 49ers team that finished the season 4-12 (losing six in a row prior to Mullens taking over November 1).
In a rare twist for a team aiming to compete in 2019, the 49ers opted to keep three quarterbacks. They saw enough in Mullens to keep him around.
Maybe the Brady to San Francisco rumors are true. One would think the 2019 Super Bowl runner-up 49ers would move right back to the top of the hill next year with Brady under center. They were close in Super Bowl LIV and bringing in Brady would be a power move to get over the top. Would they move off of the promise of potentially 5-10 years of Garoppolo to hedge their Super Bowl bets on Brady?
Or maybe it’s an easier proposition to consider if they already have a backup they really like in Mullens. If they think he could improve and learn from TB12 and grow into a future asset they’re comfortable with, then why not?
Moving a solid quarterback with plenty of years left doesn’t make a ton of sense unless you have a backup plan in place. Two years of Brady in a Super Bowl window and a backup like Mullens could be enough of a security blanket to make the move. If they do, what comes next in New England is Belichick’s move.
When you add it all up, getting Garoppolo back may actually be viable. Heck if not, I’m damn sure I’d prefer Mullens as a last ditch consolation prize over the depressing notion of Andy Dalton starting in New England. I certainly would prefer Garoppolo but I’ll lay that gauntlet down today.