Saturday, August 27, 2016

Jimmy and Tom

I had a college roommate once who opined succinctly about the meaningfulness of preseason football games. "They don't mean excrement" he said--or something like that.

Well, he is right. In terms of wins and losses, that the Patriots are 3-0 in preseason is an absolutely meaningless stat.  Also, how players--particularly veterans--run, block, and tackle, in preseason is not significant.  How veterans perform in the regular season will reflect an energy, preparation, and attitude that is not present in the preseason.

So, not to make a whole lot of Jimmy Garropolo's preseason performance. He has, in my opinion, stunk up the joint in all three games. Garropolo has come to be an important figure in New England because with Tom Brady's unfounded four game suspension, Garropolo has become the starting quarterback for the most successful football franchise of the last decade.

During the regular season in the years when he was a backup, Garropolo did not play a meaningful minute.  He would come in when the game was a slaughter or out of reach just to park his knee on the turf in order to run out the clock.  This year when the season begins in Arizona on September 11th Garropolo will be the starting quarterback in a nationally televised night game.

Jimmy has started all three of the preseason games. Last night, Brady came in at the end of the first quarter and played for much of the remainder of the first half.  Garropolo completed his first pass and then was a notch below ordinary all other times he appeared. And the difference between Brady and Garropolo had little to do with passing skill or even choosing the correct receiver.  The difference was in reading the defense before the ball was put in play and making adjustments.

Brady saw what the defense was giving him and made decisions accordingly. Garropolo to date has not shown that he can do that.   This ability, this quarterback intelligence, to come to the line of scrimmage see what is what and adjust accordingly is really what separates the great players from the ones who have talent but never excel.

Brady can not throw nearly as well as some of his contemporaries.  In a pure passing drill with say Drew Bledsoe his predecessor on the Patriots, Bledsoe would be far more impressive. He could throw darts for forty yards.  My guess is that Jimmy Garropolo has as good an arm as Brady.

My college roommate's wisdom is indeed wise. The preseason is not a predictor of the regular season. It would not surprise me if Garropolo could lead the Patriots to a 4-0 record before Brady's return.  It would not even surprise me that the Patriots success under Jimmy may cause some murmurings about handing over the ball permanently to the apprentice.  However, unless Jimmy can prove he can read and adjust to defenses, the disparity between the two players will remain the great and significant divide.

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