CHANDLER, Ariz. – New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels gushed about his quarterback. He raved about his great attitude, ability to digest information, his competitiveness, decision-making, accuracy and then some.
But McDaniels wasn’t talking about future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. All the praise was for backup Jimmy Garoppolo or “Jimmy G” as McDaniels calls him.
“He demonstrated some of the traits that we like to see in a quarterback coming out of college,” McDaniels said this week. “At the same time, most importantly, what he demonstrated was the ability to learn.”
Garoppolo is more than just Brady’s backup. The Rolling Meadows graduate and former Eastern Illinois star was a second-round pick in 2014 and is Brady’s heir apparent. He’s become what Aaron Rodgers was to Brett Favre for the Packers years ago minus all the controversy.
“It’s definitely a positive to be able to sit behind a guy like Tom,” Garoppolo said. “I’m happy where I ended up.”
Despite some thoughts otherwise, the relationship between the quarterbacks has been good since Day 1, Garoppolo said. He can text him whenever he wants about anything.
Asked about the time they spend together away from football, Garoppolo says with a smile that he can’t get into it. Consider it a sign that Garoppolo doesn’t want to overstep his bounds Brady, who is like big brother. Garoppolo wants to learn and follow Brady, 37, but doesn’t want to turn into “a pest on his shoulders,” he said.
“On the field [and] off the field, [he’s] helping me with things,” he said. “He’s been a great guy just helping me. If I ever have a question about anything, most likely he’s been through it or experienced it to some degree.”
Brady’s contract was renegotiated in December, giving him more flexibility. But he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon after this year’s Super Bowl run and having three years remaining on his deal.
Garoppolo seems accepting of his situation, though. He shares the same agents as Brady and has looked up to him since childhood. Garoppolo actually watched tapes of Brady to fine-tune his own throwing motion under the guidance of Chicago-area quarterbacks coach Jeff Christensen. It was Garoppolo’s quick release that won over teams at last year’s Senior Bowl.
“He has talents and he has abilities, but we felt pretty confident about his ability to pick things up and try to progress and improve,” McDaniels said. “We needed to see some evidence of that and he provided it.”
If Brady gets hurt, Garoppolo, of course, will step in. His readiness has been a topic this week. But Garoppolo also has embraced his scout-team role. He’s been Russell Wilson for the past two weeks.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Garoppolo has been the practice player of the week several times this season. Garoppolo apparently has gone above and beyond what’s typically asked of backups.
“Jimmy goes and meets with the defensive coaches and talks about what that quarterback does,” Belichick said. “For example, if they’re an up-tempo team, no-huddle team, [he learns] how that works, how they do it, [their] cadences [and] movement.
“Watching the [opposing] quarterback, [he learns] their scrambling or throwing habits and how quickly they come to the backs or how quickly they stay on the primary receiver or whatever it happens to be. And he’s done a great job with that.”
Garoppolo’s family will attend the game – “This is the first one for my grandma,” he said – and the Arlington Heights native is doing his best to soak in the Super Bowl atmosphere.
As for all the attention he gets at home and in Boston, Garoppolo preaches patience. His time will come.
“You stay in the present,” he said. “I tell people I’m taking it one day at a time. People are already talking about the offseason, this next season. We got a game on Sunday.”