The news this week that Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo underwent foot surgery shortly after he signed with the team in March — and will likely be sidelined until training camp — obviously raised eyebrows and concerns.
Given Garoppolo’s injury history, it would be naive to wave off any possibilities — even a worst-case scenario in which his rehabilitation lingers beyond training camp and threatens to delay his first season with the Raiders.
Or even the whole season.
Couple that with the looming presence of Tom Brady, who has agreed to a deal with Mark Davis to come on as a partial owner of the Raiders, and it’s easy to understand why some people are already speculating about the possibility of Brady coming out of retirement to quarterback the Raiders.
It’s a tantalizing thought, but one filled with so many obstacles it’s essentially a nonstarter.
But more on that in a bit.
Garoppolo’s surgery was not a surprise to the Raiders. Based on the timeline laid out by a person with knowledge of the situation, the Raiders knew he needed surgery before they signed him, and they concluded it was safe to move forward, based on a thorough evaluation by their medical staff.
Again, given Garoppolo’s injury history, dealing with a worst-case scenario is certainly a possibility.
Here is a look the Raiders’ options should circumstances turn dire:
Is paging Mr. Brady a possibility?
In the sense that there is a path available to him to return to the field, perhaps. But there are complications.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the agreement in place between Brady and Davis to purchase a piece of the Raiders has been submitted to the NFL for approval.
There is no timetable for a decision, and the transaction will follow all normal ownership sale protocols, including a full vetting process. Approval requires an affirmative vote by 24 of the league’s 32 owners, which could occur at the league’s next owner’s meetings in October, although there are no guarantees that it will be ready for approval at that point.
Interestingly, a league source raised the possibility that Brady’s approval by fellow owners could come with the provision that he is fully retired. If so, that eliminates the possibility of him trying to simultaneously own a piece of the franchise while also playing for it.
If, for argument’s sake, the sale goes through without provisions and Brady opts at some point to come out of retirement to play again, doing so would require approval by the owners. That stipulation about playing applies to every owner, from Jerry Jones to Stan Kroenke.
Without approval, Brady would have to sell back his share of the Raiders before he could return to the field.
Even if he did get all the necessary approvals to be an owner and player, one league source indicated that “a ton of salary cap issues would come with that.”
So while a road could open up to Brady to do both, it’s filled with enormous potholes.
And that raises a key question. Knowing all of those obstacles, if Brady were seriously considering playing for the Raiders, why would he be so far down the road on the very transaction that would sabotage those wishes?
Would Brian Hoyer be the next man up?
At the moment, yes.
Hoyer, the soon-to-be 38-year-old quarterback, was signed in March to back up Garoppolo. Hoyer has extensive experience in Josh McDaniels’ offensive system and would be the first option to replace Garoppolo if needed.
That said, Hoyer’s spot on the roster is two-fold. First as the emergency backup to Garoppolo, but even more importantly, to make sure either rookie Aidan O’Connell or second-year prospect Chase Garbers is prepared to step in should Garoppolo go down.
Picture Hoyer as sort of a player-coach who provides an invaluable voice and resource to a pair of young quarterbacks trying to get up to speed on an offense he knows like the back of his hand.
Is O’Connell a viable option?
The Raiders have high hopes for their rookie quarterback from Purdue, and maybe there is enough magic in the air to enable O’Connell to make a Brock Purdy-like ascent should Garoppolo go down.
That said, he is a fourth-round rookie just getting his feet wet. There are no guarantees he can be a capable backup, let alone a quality starting quarterback.
Tank or trade?
If everything goes south for the Raiders, their best bet might be tanking for the possibility of being in position to draft Southern California’s Caleb Williams next April, or another of the prospects in one of the deepest quarterback classes in years.
On the other hand, if the Raiders feel good about the current roster — but not so good about the options to replace an injured Garoppolo — there are a handful of veteran quarterbacks who could be available in a trade. The Rams’ Matthew Stafford, the Titans’ Ryan Tannehill and the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins are some of the obvious possibilities.