FOXBOROUGH — Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is used to making dramatic adjustments.
He grew up playing baseball, and had to adjust his throwing technique from that point. In working with quarterback guru Jeff Christensen, founder of the Throw It Deep quarterback and receiver training academy, Garoppolo turned a slow release into what NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock called “the quickest release in the draft.”
Now, he’ll be making another tough adjustment: from the Ohio Valley Conference to the NFL.
If all goes well for the New England Patriots, Garoppolo may not see meaningful playing time for the first four years of his career. Unless Tom Brady retires before the end of his contract, Garoppolo may have to sign a second contract just to make that happen.
That’s not stopping him from immersing himself in the playbook, getting ready just in case his number is called sooner than later.
“I can’t even describe it to you, an unbelievable amount,” Garoppolo said of how much time he’s spent studying the playbook in the short time since coming to Foxborough. “[I’m] getting a little sleep-deprived, but that’s a good thing in this business.”
At Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo operated mostly out of the shotgun in a timing-based offense. Prior to the draft, he described the footwork as: “Catch the ball, one, two, three. Or maybe just set and throw at times.” There are some timing elements in the Patriots’ offense, but he will also have to learn to take five- and seven-step drops as well as snaps from under center.
He noted that there are “not many” similarities between the Eastern Illinois offense and the New England offense.
“I mean, it’s a completely different offense, to be honest,” he said. “It’s like learning Spanish compared to English. I mean, it’s just a different language, really.”
It may seem like a different language now, but Garoppolo feels confident he can become fluent in a second language.
“Very quickly, I think. It’s going to be a process and a huge learning curve, but I’m excited for it,” he said. “It’s a unique experience, it’s a tremendous offense and a tremendous organization to play for.”
Not only will Garoppolo have to learn a new offense, he’ll also have to do it against a much higher level of competition. These will not be the same soft coverages that he shredded on his way to 5,050 passing yards in 2013. He is likely to see more press coverage in one NFL game than he saw in his entire OVC career.
That being said, he is not likely to see any coverage outside of the preseason for some time. He’s taking the long approach, and is saying all the right things with regards to the starting job at quarterback.
“My main thing is I’m a rookie,” he said. “I mean, I haven’t earned any stripes yet, I haven’t done anything on the field. We had our first day of practice yesterday, just the rookies, so I have a long way to go with all that, just to begin with.”
Garoppolo clearly views this as an opportunity to learn from Brady, and the rookie has already started. As most quarterbacks are wont to do, Garoppolo has watched Brady from afar and has picked up on some traits he admires in the future Hall-of-Famer.
“Just the way Tom has poise in the pocket, the way he throws the ball, it’s pretty picture perfect if you ask me. I’m trying to learn as much as I can from him and Ryan [Mallett] in a short period of time.”
With the NFL draft pushed back two weeks, Bill Belichick’s message to rookies has been that they are behind. Garoppolo probably will not catch up to Brady for awhile, but he’ll have to work quickly if he wants to catch up to Mallett in the battle for the backup spot.
Being on the bench may be a foreign experience, but if learning the Patriots offense is like learning a new language, at least Garoppolo gets to study abroad before moving into his new digs.