Jimmy Garoppolo: The Most Interesting QB In The World

Whether or not you agree with the suspension levied against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the wake of "Deflategate," there is at least one story that matters to the NFL fan: how will the team fare without their franchise QB? 

In the first four weeks of the season, the Patriots host the Steelers and Jaguars and go on the road against the Bills and Cowboys. Only division-rival Buffalo has a defense that finished in the top half of the league per pass-DVOA (incidentally, they were top in the NFL) so things could be worse for the defending champs. It is also worth noting that the general sports media seemed eager to drive the final nail into the coffin of the dynasty under Brady and Bill Belichick after the first four weeks last season, only for New England to ensure those journalists ate so many words that they'd never eat again.

All this is to suggest that the Patriots are probably fine. But what if they're not? Or, perhaps more interestingly, what if they really love what they see? If they start 4-0 or 0-4, the organization will face some challenges and questions they haven't faced in lo these many fourteen years, when a young 6th-rounder named Tom Brady took the reins from incumbent Drew Bledsoe

At the center of it all is the goon pictured at the beginning of this article: Jimmy Garoppolo.

It is obviously exceedingly rare for the Week 1 starter of the reigning Super Bowl champions to be shrouded in such mystery. He threw all of 27 passes last year, completing 19 of them for 182 yards. He had one touchdown, which he threw in the Week 4 game against the Chiefs that spelled the apparent end for the Patriots as we knew them, to cap off a 6-of-7, 70 yard drive. 

But very little of that impressive stat line occurred in meaningful minutes, of which he'll play quite a few this year. We can take the rational and reserved approach to his foray into the world of starting under center in the NFL, taking note of his progress in camp and his performances in the preseason--or we can make blind and extreme predictions based on the little information we can gather from this man of mystery.

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(Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

The second option sounds more fun.

James "Jimmy" "Jimbo" "The Grappler" Garoppolo: The College Years

Garoppolo took the vibrant world of Eastern Illinois University football by storm in 2010, passing for 14 TDs and nearly 1,700 yards at a 58.8% clip in only eight games. He remained consistently great throughout his college career, even before he learned how to eat planets in the summer of '13. His senior year, which earned him top player honors in the FCS, saw him throw an unreal 53 TDs and a ridiculous 5,050 yards with an absurd completion rate of 66%. Those are video game numbers, FCS or not.

The last one is particularly important, because Garoppolo set the school record for pass completions, previously held by...Tony Romo.

Tony Romo. Of the Dallas Cowboys. With the best completion percentage and QBR in the NFL in 2014 (MVP Aaron Rodgers' QBR was over six points below Romo's). These boys out of Eastern Illinois can play. 

And not just at quarterback. No sir. Good ol' Jimmy's got some surprises for us there too. During the final two years of his college career, Garoppolo punted the ball nine times for a total of 287 yards. That's a true story. He can punt too. Combine this with his serious skills at QB and that fresh spiked-in-front hair, and this kid is a triple threat.

To be fair, that punting average is just over 31 yards, which would be worst in the NFL by a wide margin: the worst team in the league by that measure, Tampa Bay, managed 40.4 yards per punt last year. But it doesn't matter! With that kind of versatility, just the threat of punting is enough to throw a defense into disarray. Turn fourth down plays into punts at the last second, or run the best fake punt play this universe has ever seen! If any coach can do it and avoid illegal formation penalties, it's Bill Belichick.

Heir to the FCS Master Race

Even after all this hard college punting data and rock-solid comparisons to Romo, you might be thinking to yourself, "if only I had one more mostly coincidental QB comparison for Garoppolo, then I'd have all the information I need to make a judgement about his future in the NFL." Thankfully, there is one!

It was not too long ago that another FCS quarterback was drafted as highly as Garoppolo was in 2014. He was near the end of the second round, at the 62nd overall pick. In fact, in 2008, an FCS signal-caller went in the first round. The 18th pick, out of Delaware, went to the Baltimore Ravens, who selected...Joe Flacco.


So now we have two data points through which we can draw our line of projection for Garoppolo in his four games as the Patriots starter. He'll either be (a) a terrific and undervalued regular season quarterback, or (b) a guy who won't win any fantasy games but will, given the right circumstances, win a title. Flawless analysis, if you ask me.

So, the question is not "can Garoppolo be the Brady to Brady's Bledsoe," because the answer to that is obviously a resounding "yes." The real question is how long it will be before the Patriots abandon the past and embrace the future.

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