Instead of opting for immediate help at a position of need, such as tight end, where talented, NFL-ready prospects were still available, the Patriots rolled the dice on the Eastern Illinois product. It is possible that when looking at former Panthers quarterback Tony Romo, New England saw what Garoppolo's future could be.
While playing there, the Patriots rookie broke Romo's school records for career passing touchdowns as well as passing yards and touchdowns in a season. He also won the Walter Payton Award, which is given to the most outstanding offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
It took the Cowboys signal caller 4 1/2 years to become the starter and took him three years to begin making significant strides. While there is no telling how quick of a learner Garoppolo will be, going from Division I-AA to the NFL comes with a steep learning curve. In his first training camp, he has good moments and bad moments, just as the Patriots expected. He needs to go through his reads quicker and get the ball out of his hands faster, but what Garoppolo does have is a quick release.
On Friday, he was picked off twice, including putting the ball right in the chest of linebacker Chris White, with no receiver in sight. On Saturday, the rookie went just 2-7 with an interception during 11-on-11's and completed one of his two passes during 7-on-7's. But on Sunday, he displayed the mental toughness that he will need to stick in this league. Garoppolo closed out the weekend completing all four of his passes during 7-on-7's and connecting on three of his four passes during 11-on-11's. It is worth noting that he also fumbled an exchange with rookie center Bryan Stork, something that has now happened a couple of times during camp. Ryan Mallet also had a strong day and figures to remain in the fold this season. Garoppolo's primary responsibilities this season will be to learn the playbook, adjust to how the game is played at the highest level, something he was far from, playing in the Ohio Valley Conference and to fine tune his mechanics. These will also be some of his biggest responsibilities going forward, in addition to handling the role of being the team's number two quarterback.
There is no telling how long Tom Brady will play for, at what level he will play at and whether or not he will finish his career in New England. Patriots fans would like to answer the first two questions with infinity and without declining. But if the answer to that third question is no, the emergence of Jimmy Garoppolo may very well be the reason why.
Be sure to listen to this week's episode of Patriots Beat to hear Jeff Kane's observations from training camp as well as his and Bob Snowdon's interview with Mike Reiss.