The New England Patriots stunned the NFL by trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, placing complete faith in Tom Brady's extraordinary ability to stave off Father Time.
New England received a second-round pick from the 49ers for Garoppolo, who had been seen as the heir apparent to Brady after being selected by the Patriots in round two of the 2014 draft and significantly impressing in the two starts he made last season when their future Hall of Fame starter was suspended.
In his pair of starts Garoppolo completed 42 of his 59 passes for 496 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots won both of those games, and their head coach Bill Belichick could hardly have been more effusive in his praise of Garoppolo when he discussed the trade on Tuesday.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jimmy. I couldn't ask for him to give any more than what he's given us," Belichick said. "The Niners are getting a good player. They're getting a good person, and they're getting a great team-mate, and they're getting a good quarterback, and Jimmy's getting a good coach [in Kyle Shanahan]."
Garoppolo had been one of the hottest properties in the NFL and flourished whenever he was given an opportunity by New England, with the pressure of the big stage never appearing to faze the 26-year-old.
Only an exceptional set of circumstances could lead a team to part with such an exciting prospect and the Patriots, as Belichick alluded to in his media conference, had such a set of circumstances.
"It's just not sustainable the way things are set up. It's definitely not something we wanted to walk away from," he said. "I felt like we rode it out as long as we could. Over a period of time, we explored every option possible to try and sustain it. But, at this point, felt like we had to make a decision."
What has forced the Patriots' hand is of course the continued excellence displayed by Brady who, at the age of 40, is providing legitimacy to his own bullish talk of him playing well into his forties with a string of excellent performances, already putting the team on his back on numerous occasions as New England's defense has wilted.
But the questions over how sustainable Brady's performance is will only intensify now Garoppolo is gone, and his departure leaves the Patriots with no backup and no insurance policy as they prepare for a postseason quest for a sixth Super Bowl title.
The Patriots are likely to sign a backup soon, and Brian Hoyer is a leading candidate after his brief and underwhelming stint with the 49ers was ended by Garoppolo's arrival.
However, they are unlikely to find a deputy who inspires as much confidence as Garoppolo did, and the reality is that the Patriots are now an injury to Brady, who has already been sacked 21 times this season, away from their season being over and their future at quarterback being cast into doubt.
Belichick has never been one to shy away from trading players he believes are expendable, however, in letting go of Garoppolo, he has put the Patriots' short and long-term future at risk in a deal that serves as the biggest gamble of his distinguished career.