Jimmy Garoppolo finally saw some extended regular season game action during the New England Patriots’ 17-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The week 17 matchup was filled with backups for the Patriots, as the team had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Still, it was a good opportunity for Garoppolo and others to show what they could do.
Garoppolo entered the game at the start of the 3rd quarter while starting quarterback Tom Brady played the first half. Garoppolo made some good plays, including a 24-yard strong pass to wide receiver Brandon LaFell that led to a Patriots’ field goal. But Garoppolo struggled in other ways, sometimes trying to run with the ball when there was nothing there. He failed to get a first down on a designed quarterback run that was called on 4th down and 1 deep in Bills territory. While Garoppolo didn’t exactly take over the game, he still showed a lot of promise throughout the year and in this contest.
“It was a good experience,” Garoppolo said. “Getting out there and actually getting some live reps will only help going forward. There’s plenty of room for improvement. There are some good things, bad things and things to learn from.”
Like most of the season, Garoppolo wasn’t told what his role in the Patriots’ last game of the season would be. He didn’t know leading up to the game if he would be starting, or playing very little at all. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick believes that this allows his backup players to prepare better for any situation. Still, the legendary coach had high praise for Garoppolo.
“I thought Jimmy competed well,” Belichick said. “He was under some pressure. Some things were good, other things could have been better, but I thought he competed well. Some of the opportunities where he had to make plays, he made them. There are definitely some positives out there. There are also things to learn from and build on.”
Even though Garoppolo saw little in-game action this year, he continued to improve and the other players on the team also took note of that. It’s clear that Garoppolo earned the respect of many of his teammates with his performance this season, and especially in this game.
“You always like to see a young guy get in there and get himself an opportunity, and there’s one thing about Jimmy, he’s a competitor and he loves the game of football and was able to get out there and make some plays with his feet,” Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater said. “You always want to see your teammates do well, especially a guy that has worked hard in the role he’s been asked to perform in. It’s not the easiest of roles, and for him to take advantage, we’re pumped for him.”
Going forward, the Patriots are the favorite to appear in the Super Bowl representing the AFC. Ever since the team’s week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs where Brady was benched in favor of Garoppolo, Brady has played like he has something to prove. The offense has improved dramatically and it looks as if the Patriots will be a tough opponent for any team in the playoffs seeing as they have home-field advantage throughout. As Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount said: “Nobody can stop us but us.”
Jimmy Garoppolo achieved a lot this season as a rookie backup quarterback for one of the NFL’s most successful franchises. He became the only quarterback on the Patriots’ roster besides future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, which is a huge job to give a rookie 2nd-round draft pick. He was entrusted to this role by head coach Bill Belichick, who is often considered as one of the league’s toughest (and also best) coaches. While some young rookies may have grown frustrated with the lack of playing time, Garoppolo took it as a great opportunity to learn from one of the best quarterbacks of this generation, and it will surely benefit his career in the future.
Garoppolo surprised both his peers and fans alike in the preseason, outperforming quarterback Ryan Mallett, who many expected to end up as Brady’s backup for the season. Garoppolo showed great poise for a rookie, and it was clear the Patriots had confidence in him because they traded Mallett away in the preseason, leaving Garoppolo as the sole backup quarterback. Garoppolo seems to be in the Patriots’ long term plans, even if he has to wait a few season behind Brady.
Week 4 of the NFL season was when Garoppolo saw his first in-game action of the regular season. During a 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Garoppolo was inserted into the game in the 4th quarter and promptly lead the team to a touchdown, causing some controversy when Brady didn’t celebrate with him on the sideline afterwards. Belichick was even asked after the game about “evaluating” the quarterback position, but he laughed it off. The game seemed to be motivation for Brady, who went on one of the best stretches of his career after that, leading the Patriots to seven straight wins and setting the tone for the rest of the season in which they were the best team in the NFL.
While Garoppolo didn’t see major playing time again until week 17, it remains clear that he is focused on his future as a Patriot, and also is willing to work hard to get better. Throughout the season, he has said all the right things to the media, and remained humble and patient about his backup role. While he won’t likely see any playing time in the playoffs, such is life in the NFL where Garoppolo is one injury away from being the starting quarterback for this team. Obviously Patriots fans don’t want to see that quite yet, but if Garoppolo is called upon, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be ready.
It’s been a great year for the Patriots and Garoppolo. He went from a 2nd round pick from Eastern Illinois University that no one was really sure of to the backup quarterback to a living legend that he can learn from everyday. Although Garoppolo fans may have to wait a little while longer to see him become a starting NFL quarterback, you can rest assured that the knowledge he’s getting now will be amazingly beneficial in the future. Although this season may be wrapping up, Garoppolo’s future is bight and we hope you’ll keep checking here at jimmygaroppolo.net for more news and info as it happens.