Danny Amendola is latest Texas Tech tough guy to join Dolphins, following Zach Thomas and Wes Welker

Finally the Miami Dolphins have figured out a way to put the pinch on Tom Brady.

By signing Danny Amendola to a free-agent contract, the Dolphins deny Brady the use of one of his most reliable targets and a key member of the NFL’s top offensive unit.

Can’t call Amendola invaluable, of course. If Bill Belichick thought that term applied to

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) makes a catch between Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Koa Misi (55) and Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Philip Wheeler (52) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 15, 2013. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

the slot receiver, New England would have outbid Miami for his services. Already, Amendola has taken some $10 million in paycuts the last three offseasons in order to stay with the Patriots.

Think, though, of the toughness Amendola brought to the Patriots’ huddle, and the leadership he will bring to Miami’s locker room. See if any of this fits the new “culture” that the Dolphins and coach Adam Gase want to build, albeit three years late.

Amendola signed with the Patriots just as Wes Welker was leaving them, a demonstration of his willingness to take on a big challenge.

He started only half of the Patriots’ 2017 games but had such a rapport with Brady that he was targeted more times (86) than anyone but Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski.

Amendola caught just two touchdown passes during the 2017 regular season, nothing dramatic, but then he caught two more in the fourth quarter of New England’s comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game. Altogether, in 13 playoffs games with New England he caught six touchdown passes.

What’s more, according to the Boston Herald, Amendola kept on playing through a torn groin in 2013, knee and ankle injuries in 2015.

Not bad for a guy who went undrafted out of Texas Tech after playing there for Mike Leach, one of the most inventive coaches around.

Matter of fact, I’m going to suggest that the Dolphins look to Texas Tech more often in the talent searches of the draft and free agency.

That’s where linebacker Zach Thomas played his college ball on the way to a great Dolphins career that featured seven Pro Bowl selections.

And how about Welker, another Texas Tech star who the Dolphins didn’t really prize until he had left them and, in a New England uniform, transformed himself into the NFL’s leading receiver.

Jakeem Grant, 5-feet-7, is another little hardhead from Texas Tech. He and Amendola will be playing together now in Miami and maybe even sharing time in the slot position, unless Adam Gase decides he only needs one of them.

Will Brady be able to keep his offense moving without Amendola? Of course. He never slows down, no matter who is running the routes.

This addition of Amendola, however, will return to Ryan Tannehill some of the third-down certainty that was lost with the trade of Jarvis Landry to Cleveland for money reasons alone.

This may not work out so well if Amendola, 32, continues to have trouble with a bad knee that’s been bothering him the last few seasons. Can’t blame the Dolphins, though, for taking what Brady wants.

At least make the Patriots work a little harder on their way to the Super Bowl. At least make them do that.

[Not feeling confident about Gators, Canes and Noles in NCAA tourney]

[Justin Thomas’ climb to No. 2 in world gives Honda Classic another boost]

[Marlins’ inaugural spring training 25 years ago was a Space Coast blast]

 

Look past Brady to bottom of depth chart and you’ll see what makes Belichick so Super

Whenever something goes right for the New England Patriots, everybody says, well, that’s Bill Belichick for you.

Playing angles that other coaches don’t see. Getting more from particular players than anyone else has. Digging deeper and demanding more, so that man on the roster or on the staff either owns a vital role in the franchise’s continuing success or he is quickly replaced.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JANUARY 29: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots arrives at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for Super Bowl LII. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Oh, and if I don’t mention that on occasion Belichick and his team have been caught cheating, somebody out there is going to say I left something out of his personal toolbox, so there’s that, too.

The point is that while we’re all focusing on Tom Brady and his singular contributions to all those Super Bowl titles, Belichick is working so far behind the scenes and doing it so well that most of it never gets noticed.

For instance, Belichick spent a fifth-round draft choice on a long snapper in 2015. That may not seem like such a big deal, but Brady was a sixth-rounder when he came to the Patriots from Michigan in the 2000 NFL draft.

For that matter, Danny Amendola, whose two fourth-quarter touchdown catches completed New England’s comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game, wasn’t drafted by the Patriots or anyone else when he came out of college in 2008.

So for Belichick to use a fifth-round pick on a specialty item like long snapper, well, it had to mean something. And it does. Joe Cardona is a highly-disciplined guy who played college football at the U.S. Naval Academy. He will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl, just he played in the last one, only after receiving permission to reschedule his weekend duty with a Navy reserve unit.

Belichick grew up around Navy football and graduated from Annapolis High School. His father, Steve Belichick, was on the football staff at the academy forever, coaching special teams and producing some of the most detailed and useful scouting reports anyone has ever seen.

Those are the reports that the future Patriots coach studied and absorbed as soon as he was finished with his homework. Those are the influences that would lead Belichick to prize the minute details of snapping and kicking and punting so highly, and to call Cardona personally in 2015 to let him know that New England had used the 166th overall pick on a specialty player like him.

Only a handful of Navy athletes have been selected in the history of the regular NFL draft, not much more than a dozen. Roger Staubach and Napoleon McCallum are the best known.

As for long snappers in general, Cardona was believed to be only the fourth in history to be drafted by an NFL team at the time he joined New England. Since Belichick made such an unusual priority of that position, however, a long snapper has been selected in the sixth round of the last two drafts, one by Detroit and one by Pittsburgh.

None of this will ever matter to anybody watching Super Bowl LII on Sunday unless there is a bad Patriots snap on a kick, and I’m figuring there won’t be. Cardona can be trusted to come through. He’s a Belichick guy and has been from the start.

We could jump all over the Patriots roster and find other names that explain why this team is so great.  You get the picture. There’s a coach here who know what he wants – consistency, reliability and a high football I.Q. – and he never compromises.

Yep, that’s Belichick for you.

[Dan Mullen promises national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Cooperstown when Marlins traded him?]

[Nothing remains for LeBron to do except giving it a try as player-coach]

Eagles could go from losers to Super Bowl champs in one year, but what about Miami?

How far are the Miami Dolphins from winning a Super Bowl?

It seems a ridiculous question coming off a 6-10 season, but there is a history of losing teams making the jump to NFL champion in the space of just one year.

New England did it in 2001. The Patriots were 5-11 the previous season and there was

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld, second from bottom, is followed by running back LeGarrette Blount, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and quarterback Nick Foles, as they arrive for the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Minneapolis. Philadelphia is scheduled to face the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

nothing much to recommend them except that they never got shut out. Miami suffered that indignity twice in 2017, and it very nearly happened a third time.

The 1999 St. Louis Rams won a Super Bowl after going 4-12 the previous season and sticking Dick Vermeil with the worst record of his 15-year NFL coaching career.

San Francisco won it all in 1981, just one year removed from a 6-10 clunker that was similar in some ways to what the Dolphins are going through. Bill Walsh, for instance, was in his second year as an NFL head coach and he had no more luck igniting his creative offensive ideas with Steve DeBerg at quarterback than Adam Gase did with Jay Cutler.

So what happened to transform those losers into Super Bowl champs so quickly? Obviously there was improvement throughout the rosters, but the most glaring similarity was a significant upgrade at quarterback.

Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Joe Montana all were first trusted to handle full-time starting roles in those breakthrough seasons. They got their teams through some tight spots and continued to do so for years thereafter.

So about those Dolphins. Can’t see Ryan Tannehill or even some first-round draft pick suddenly giving Gase all that he needs at quarterback. It’s not impossible, though.

The Philadelphia Eagles were 7-9 a year ago and it’s not impossible that they might become Super Bowl champs on Sunday, even with a supposed downgrade at quarterback.

[Mullen promises national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Hall of Fame when Marlins traded him?]

[Nothing left for LeBron to do but give player-coaching a try]

Brady towers over other QBs in NFL’s final four but it’s looking like one of those weird years

If we’re going by the power of high-level draft analysis alone, former first-rounder Blake Bortles is the best bet among the quarterbacks who have reached the NFL’s final four.

Nick Foles was a third-rounder. Tom Brady was a sixth-round afterthought and Case Keenum didn’t get drafted at all.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Quarterback Case Keenum celebrates as he walks off the field after the Vikings defeated the New Orleans Saints 29-24 to win the NFC divisional round playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 14, 2018. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Or maybe we could measure the players’ values using measurements, like they do at the combine. In that case Foles towers over the rest at 6-feet-6. Bortles is 6-5, Brady is 6-4 and Keenum is 6-2.

Ok, ok, before this gets any weirder, let’s cut to the chase.

Brady has won more playoff games (26) than any quarterback in NFL history.

That’s more than Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman combined.

Or John Elway and Roger Staubach combined.

Or Dan Marino, Steve Young and Jim Kelly combined.

Now you don’t need me telling you that Brady has been around for a while or that he’s won a lot, but the other three quarterbacks in the conference championship round have appeared in a combined total of five playoff games.

That’s not exactly apples and apples when it comes to big-game savvy, or even apples and oranges. It’s apples and rotten rutabagas.

Of course, there has to be a first time for everyone so there’s no choice but to stay tuned.

Check out this string of Super Bowl winners from the 1999 season to 2001 if inspiration is needed.

For openers, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner was the Super Bowl MVP, winning it all in his first season as a starter and repeating for a million questioners the story of his days as an Arena Football League player.

Next came Trent Dilfer, who never got Tampa Bay over the top in five seasons there but won a Super Bowl in his first season at Baltimore, buoyed by a ravenous Ravens defense.

Finally, the topper, a team that won the Super Bowl as a two-touchdown underdog and with a 24-year-old quarterback who had never started a playoff game before that season.

Some kid named Brady, and he did it with just 145 passing yards on Super Sunday.

[Mullen and Gators need to join SEC parade of true freshman QB’s]

[$10 million sure didn’t buy Dolphins much with Jay Cutler]

[Never would have thought a Bama national title could come as a surprise]

 

 

NFL got what it deserved when Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey went missing

The NFL got exactly what it deserved with the embarrassing story of a media member walking out of the Super Bowl locker room with Tom Brady’s jersey.

It’s been building up to something like this for years, with the league issuing credentials to all kinds of people from all kinds of places in an attempt to make American football a pop culture spectacle on every continent.

This photo released by MAGO on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 shows Tom Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey after it was recovered by authorities in Mexico City. (MAGO via AP )

The men and women who cover the NFL regularly are not a priority in this quest. America already loves and follows the league more than any other professional sport, and follows it through conventional sources.

To have reporters come to the big game from, say, China or Egypt or Brazil or Turkey, that’s got potential for opening the eyes and ears and wallets of new customers worldwide.

I’ve been covering Super Bowls for a long time and the slow trend of granting access to outside and sometimes out-of-this-world “journalists” was a mere annoyance most of the time.

Late-night TV hosts always would send special correspondents to ask stupid questions and launch elaborate skits on Media Day, the event where both teams come to the stadium in uniform to be photographed and questioned and generally subjected to a mob scene.

Some of it was cute enough, like the grade-school kid supposedly reporting for “Weekly Reader” and getting passed up to talk with the quarterback on the podium. Some of it was clownish, like a beauty queen in a wedding dress asking players to marry her, or some blockhead bounding through the crowd on stilts.

For one morning each year everybody pretty much put up with it, because most of the interlopers were not granted access beyond Super Bowl Media Day itself.

At some point, however, and it probably was about the time the NFL Network came to be, the league decided to step it up a notch. Super Bowl Media Day became a prime-time event with a commercial sponsor and a live broadcast spread across three hours and three networks.

Can’t be surprised when something like that leads to anybody with a blog and a taxi fare to the stadium seeking a credential. The league gets all serious with photo I.D.’s and laminated credentials and scanning machines and metal detectors, but it’s pretty difficult to be utterly serious about some things and not about others.

The NFL, for instance, is determined to mine the Mexico City market. The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will be sent there this season to play a regular-season game with the Oakland Raiders as a show of that commitment. With that decision comes a necessary promotional relationship with the Mexican media.

That’s how you wind up with a guy who works for Diario La Prensa, a newspaper in Mexico City, gaining credentials and access to the team locker rooms at the Super Bowl, even though that representative may never have spent any time doing legitimate reporting on NFL action.

Brady’s jersey was tracked to Mauricio Ortega in Mexico, who was listed as director of the publication and not as a reporter of sports or any other category. He also was known to have been spending his time during Super Bowl week gathering autographs and taking selfies with players, which should have gotten him red-flagged a lot earlier than Super Bowl Sunday.

It wasn’t Ortega’s first masquerade as a working journalist, either. He had attended previous Super Bowls and in his home was found a helmet that may have been stolen from a previous game.

So it is that one turkey out of 20,000 credentialed Super Bowl reporters showed himself to be a thief and an imposter. Or maybe we should say at least one out of 20,000. With media masses like that and an event this deliberately overblown, it’s impossible to be exact with sort of number.

[Only 3 Gator teams ever made it to Sweet 16 more easily than this one]

[Inaugural NCAA hoops title game was played in stuffy, campus gym]

[From franchise’s darkest moment comes inspiration for today’s Heat]

The NFL got what it finally deserved here, and it took the involvement of the FBI and the Houston police department and Mexican law enforcement authorities and even the Texas Rangers to clean up the mess. Of course, great gobs of taxpayer money went down the drain, too.

Will this pare down the Super Bowl credentialing list? Not enough to matter. There always will be groupies at any big show, and con men smart enough to slip through the cracks.

Some warmed-over Super Bowl nuggets that still pack a punch a few days later

 

That Super Bowl comeback for New England the other night continues to amaze the deeper you dig into the details.

Here are five overlooked nuggets from the Patriots’ 34-28 overtime win over Atlanta, one for each of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl rings.

  1. The Patriots’ offense just kept coming, of course, no matter the score, and that had a cumulative effect on the exhausted Falcons at the end. Did you know, however, that New England ran 93 total plays, a Super Bowl record?

Joe Montana and the 49ers only ran 77 plays in their 55-10 Super Bowl blowout of Denver in 1990. Likewise, the Chicago Bears snapped the ball just 76 times in their 46-10 rout of New England in 1986.

New England Patriots running back James White (28) in action against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Dan Wozniak/Zuma Press/TNS)
New England Patriots running back James White (28) in action against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Dan Wozniak/Zuma Press/TNS)

Judging by those numbers, Sunday night should have been a blowout, too.

  1. But wait, there’s more from the category of total offensive plays.

Atlanta only snapped the ball 46 times. To give you an idea of how much time that is for an offense to sit idling on the sidelines, Miami lost a Super Bowl 24-3 to Dallas in which the Dolphins ran 44 plays and were never in the game at all.

During the 2016 regular season the Dolphins ran 41 plays against Tennessee and lost 30-17. Also, they got routed 22-7 by Cincinnati while running 43 offensive plays.

Just one more reason to marvel that the Patriots and Falcons ever wound up in overtime in the first place.

  1. Atlanta’s league-leading offense was on a major roll headed into the game, with an average of 38.8 points scored over a winning streak that had reached six games.

On Sunday the Patriots limited the Falcons’ offense to 21 points. One of Atlanta’s four touchdowns came on an interception return.

  1. Brady’s quarterback rating was only 95.2 with that pick-6 included. That was his sixth-worst number for the season, playoffs included.

Guessing you’d still probably have him quarterbacking your team more than, say, Matt Ryan, who had an extremely efficient quarterback rating of 144.1 on Sunday night and a postseason average of 135.3.

Analytics like this are useful, but Super Bowl history isn’t written in strings of computer code.

  1. New England running back James White, a product of Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School, had 11 career postseason catches going into that game. The last time New England was in the Super Bowl, as a matter of fact, White was a healthy scratch.

Against the Falcons, however, White caught 14 passes, a Super Bowl record. For comparison’s sake, Julio Jones, the Falcons’ phenomenal wideout, caught only four balls on Sunday night and Atlanta had just 17 catches as a team.

Oh, and White also ran for two touchdowns, one to tie the game at the end of regulation and another to win it in overtime. Of, course, this is the Patriots way. Two years ago, cornerback Malcolm Butler, an undrafted free agent from the University of West Alabama, provided the Super Bowl winning edge for New England.

[Lane Kiffin says FAU’s new QB is moving past old troubles]

[Look at all the Super Bowl starters who got stiffed on National Signing Day]

[Palm Beach County’s spring training showcase is the best in the state]

 

A little candy to treat Dolphins fans who are sick of seeing the Patriots always in the Super Bowl

 

This time of year can be tough on Miami Dolphins fans, now 43 years removed from

1973 file photo. Don Shula.
Don Shula in 1973. (Post file photo)

the last NFL championship in franchise history, and that frustration goes double when the New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl again.

As a public service to the South Florida market we offer these proofs that it was not always this way (Patriots ruling the AFC East and, too frequently, the world) and it will not stay this way forever (in theory, at least).

  • Between 1964-75, the Boston/New England Patriots experienced a 12-season postseason drought. The Dolphins’ longest stretch without a playoff game is seven seasons.
  • During the sad period of Patriots history listed above, the Dolphins won a couple of Super Bowls, posted the only perfect season in NFL history and ran up a 13-6 record against the Pats.
  • Between 1963-82, the Patriots qualified for just four playoff games and lost them all. The last loss in that string was a first-rounder to Miami in 1982, and the Dolphins went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.
  • The Dolphins are 16 years without a postseason victory at the moment, but there’s still time to put one on the board before reaching the Patriots’ franchise worst drought of 21 years between 1964-84.
  • Three times in their history the Patriots have owned or shared the worst record in the NFL – 1970, 1990 and 1992. That has happened to Miami only once (2007).
  • The Dolphins lead the all-time series with the Patriots 53-50, playoffs included.
  • The Dolphins own the longest winning streak in the series, with nine straight victories over the Patriots between 1989-93. The Patriots have never won more than seven in a row against Miami.
  • The Dolphins have the most lopsided victory in the series, 52-0 in 1972.
  • When Tom Brady joines the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day, he’ll still be outnumbered by Bob Griese and Dan Marino.
  • Bill Belichick may have 262 career victories but he’s still 85 short of Don Shula.

 

Conclusions? This makes me feel a little bit better about the faulty concept that everything always goes New England’s way, and a little bit worse that it took so much work to find these Miami advantages.

Trust me, it does no good to dig further. Stop here, before counting up division titles, Super Bowls and such, and before recognizing that Shula was 65 when the Dolphins pushed him out of the way for Jimmy Johnson. Belichick is 64 and still working on his trophy case.

[Here’s a Miami Heat upset crazier than Monday’s win over Warriors]

[Gators fall a touchdown short of college football’s scoring average]

[Wondering if Dolphins’ No. 22 draft slot is haunted]

Jared Goff continues the pattern of QB’s making their NFL debuts against the Dolphins

Hard to believe, but for the fourth time in 10 games this season, the Miami Dolphins on Sunday will be facing a quarterback who is making his NFL regular-season debut.

This time it’s Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, who gets his first start and his first game action because coach Jeff Fisher decided the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft finally is ready for the challenge.

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) warms up before an NFL football game against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford, N.J. A person with knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press that quarterback Jared Goff will make his NFL debut on Sunday when the No. 1 pick starts for the Los Angeles Rams. The source spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, because Rams coach Jeff Fisher hadn't made the official announcement. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
Jared Goff of Los Angeles Rams. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Well, that and the fact that the Rams are last in the league in scoring at 15.4 points per game and have been held without a touchdown three times.

How well will Goff perform against the Dolphins, who pretty much made veteran Philip Rivers look like a rookie in the fourth quarter of last week’s 31-24 win over the Chargers?

It figures Goff will do just fine, if Miami’s other matchups with newbie quarterbacks is any indication. Here are the stats those supposedly nervous rookies put up.

In Week 2 at New England, Jacoby Brissett from Dwyer High School was forced into emergency action against Miami because Tom Brady was on NFL suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt. Entering the game in the second quarter with the Patriots leading 21-0, Brissett did just enough to nail down a 31-24 victory by completing 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards and avoiding turnovers.

In Week 3, Cleveland’s Cody Kessler got sacked three times by the Dolphins but overall kept the Browns in the game by completing 21-of-33 for 244 yards with no interceptions. Miami won the game in overtime but Kessler’s quarterback rating of 85.9 was no embarrassment. Three times this season Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins has failed to hit that mark.

In Week 8, the New York Jets turned to Bryce Petty, a 2015 draft pick who never had played a down, because Ryan Fitzpatrick was getting an injury checked on the sidelines. The kid wasn’t much of a factor in the game during his brief appearance but he didn’t hurt the Jets, completing both of his passes for 19 yards.

Now comes Goff, the 6-foot-4 star from the University of California who was drafted way ahead of all the rest.

Brissett and Kessler were drafted in the third round, with the 91st and 93rd overall picks, respectively. Petty went in the fourth round, the 103rd player taken overall in the 2015 draft.

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

[Speaking of TD returns, remember when Ted Ginn really burned the Jets?]

[Running low on opportunity to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

The point is don’t count on Goff being a goof on Sunday. All of these kids have NFL arms or they wouldn’t have been drafted at all. It’s a matter of feeling comfortable with whatever the coaching staff is calling for them, and, of course, not falling so far behind that the defense can feast on obvious passing situations for the entire second half.

That’s what happened to Tannehill in his NFL debut, the season opener of 2012. Houston led Miami 24-3 by halftime and coasted to a 30-10 victory. In a circumstance that would have been unfair for any rookie, Tannehill was forced to throw 36 passes. He was intercepted three times and sacked twice. A very bad first day at the office.

The second game was much more natural, however, with Tannehill completing 18-of-30 passes for 200 yards in a 35-13 win over Oakland that featured one touchdown passing and one touchdown rushing by the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft.

With the right game plan, Goff could prove to be very dangerous against the Dolphins. With a bit of panic under duress, on the other hand, Miami’s pass rush could eat him alive.

Either way, it’s way past time to see what the big guy has got. This is the NFL, where the most talented players belong on the field. There really shouldn’t be any redshirt seasons.

 

 

 

 

With Jimmy Garoppolo at QB, Patriots listed as rare opening-day underdogs

 

Quite a double-header for Dolphins fans on Sunday, with Miami kicking off its 2016 season at 4:05 p.m. in Seattle and then the New England Patriots at Arizona immediately following on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, right, hands off to New England Patriots running back James White, left, during an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hands off to running back James White during practice in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Forever I thought that Tom Brady would beat the Deflategate rap, or at least that he would be able to postpone his four-game suspension long enough to play in September. But here it is, a New England game without Brady, and it will be the same next week when the Dolphins go to Foxborough.

How Jimmy Garoppolo does in Brady’s absence is anybody’s guess.

If you want mine, I think he will do fine in his first NFL start.

Whether that’s good enough to win at Arizona remains to be seen, but If the kid wasn’t up to the assignment, Bill Belichick would have seen it long ago and starting working with someone else on an emergency plan.

Garoppolo was a second-round pick in 2014, perfectly suited to be groomed as Brady’s backup. Even in short duty the last few years he is 20-for-31 passing with a 64.5 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 91.9.

Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in his first start as a Dolphins rookie in 2012, earning a 39.0 rating. It would be wishful thinking to expect that Garoppolo will struggle in the same way. He’s no rookie and he’s been a special project of Belichick’s all summer.

All the same, the NFL gave both Miami and New England brutal opening trips and Garoppolo’s start surely plays into the fact that Las Vegas is listing the Cardinals as six-point favorites over the Patriots.

According to Boston.com, a website created by the Boston Globe, the Patriots have never been bigger underdogs in the Belichick era for a season-opening game.

Whatever Garoppolo does Sunday may give Miami fans hope going into next week’s showdown at Foxboro or it may underscore the challenge facing Adam Gase in his first season as Dolphins head coach.

[It’s a soft opening for Tiger Woods’ return, and that’s a smart move]

[Six good reasons why the Ravens signed Devin Hester this week]

[Remembering what happened to Dolphins’ last emergency starter at center]

Need any more help getting ready? Well here’s a quote from Arizona coach Bruce Arians, who likened Garoppolo to a young Tony Romo in his pregame comments.

“Jimmy’s an excellent athlete,” Arians said. “A very accurate passer. Having been in the system, in that system especially, for the number of years he’s been there, he’s watched (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) come up with game plans and understands what they’re trying to do. But he’s a very good athlete. You have to defend his legs as much as his arm.”

Certainly makes things more interesting, but if Brady’s backup can get the Patriots two wins out of four, Miami is still going to have a hard time staying up.

 

 

Tom Brady pulling out all the stops with his choice of Deflategate attorney

It’s fourth-and-long on Tom Brady’s Deflategate appeal. Does he have a flea-flicker play that might work?

I’m not enough of a legal scholar to rule on that, but Brady and the NFL Players Association aren’t messing around in their choice of counsel. Ted Olsen is their lawyer, the one who is formally requesting that a U.S. Court of Appeals take a second look at its own ruling, and Ted Olsen plays for keeps.

FILE - In this June 16, 2105, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass during an NFL football minicamp in Foxborough, Mass. Brady grew from a sixth-round draft choice into one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. On Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hears Brady's appeal of a four-game suspension for using deflated footballs in the AFC championship game. How will that affect Brady's legacy? (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass last summer during an NFL football minicamp in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

He argued for the winning side in the Bush v. Gore final showdown before the U.S. Supreme Court. There was a presidential election riding on that one, and it was decided in what amounted to double- or triple-overtime.

That gig worked out fairly well for Olsen, who soon was nominated and confirmed to the office of Solicitor General of the United States, a job he worked from 2001-04. The men and women who have filled that role keep an office in the U.S. Supreme Court building and maintain close contact with the justices in cases involving the federal government, which frequently puts them on the short list for elevation to a seat on the Supreme Court itself.

What, you didn’t sign up for a civics lesson?

OK, let’s just agree that Brady is huddling up with one of the Pro Bowlers of the American legal scene, and that it’s not pro bono.

William Howard Taft. Thurgood Marshall. Archibald Cox. Robert Bork. Kenneth Starr. All, like Olsen, were the U.S. Solicitor General at some point in their careers. All had a way of making headlines.

[New Orleans fired first shot in escalation of Super Bowl hosting requirements]

[Missing out on LaMarcus Aldridge hasn’t hurt Heat because of Whiteside]

[Winslow and Richardson give Heat a rare boost from NBA draft]

Does any of this mean that Brady will have his four-game suspension reduced or tossed altogether in time for the 2016 NFL season? No, but if anybody can push this Hail Mary effort all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, it figures to be Olsen, who has appeared in that ultimate courtroom many times, including a turn as the NFLPA’s lawyer in the 2001 NFL lockout case.

Frankly, I still figure on seeing Brady in the season opener, riding another wave of legal delays.