Patriots controversy gives Garoppolo a chance

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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Ever since the four-game suspension that was dealt to New England Patriot starting quarterback Tom Brady, the Eastern community has been filled with excitement about former quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo taking on New England’s starting role once the season begins.

Eastern Kentucky defensive back Johnny Joseph is shoved out of bounds by former Eastern quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a game on Sept. 28, 2013 at O'Brien Field.

Jason Howell
Eastern Kentucky defensive back Johnny Joseph is shoved out of bounds by former Eastern quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a game on Sept. 28, 2013 at O’Brien Field.

Garoppolo has not taken reps with the Patriots’ first-team starters through its first two exhibition games. He has completed 48 out of 63 passes during those games, including his first touchdown of the preseason on Saturday night at New Orleans.

He went 28-of-33 against the Saints, including 233 passing yards and an interception. ESPN reporter Mike Reiss said Garoppolo’s performance should give the Patriots’ fan base some confidence heading into the season.

“This was the type of game Patriots’ fans could look at and have confidence that Garoppolo would be capable if he’s called upon should Tom Brady not be available for the first four games of the regular season due to suspension,” Reiss said in an article on ESPN.com.

However, Brady’s suspension for his role in using deflated footballs in last year’s AFC Championship Game has not been put to rest yet. His appeal, with the help of the National Football League’s Player’s Association, began in June.

Since the appeal, Brady has taken first-team snaps in both exhibition games, which is allowed while the appeal is ongoing.

If Garoppolo starts Week 1 of the regular season on Thursday, September 10, Eastern will be the only college to have two quarterbacks starting that week. Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo will be the other former Panther starting, as the Cowboys take on the New York Giants in Arlington, Texas.

The Cowboys and Patriots will face each other on Sunday, October 11, in Arlington. Garoppolo broke Romo’s records for career passing touchdowns, and yards and passing touchdowns in a single season at Eastern.

That all helped Garoppolo be named the Walter Payton Award winner, which is awarded to the best offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. Garoppolo was projected to be drafted in either the first or second round in the 2014 NFL draft. He was drafted by the Patriots in the second round with the No. 62 overall pick.

ESPN Draft Analyst Todd McShay told USA Today he believed his pocket presence, as well as arm strength, stood out. Those are qualities McShay said are very important for NFL quarterbacks. McShay also predicted Garoppolo to be picked in the second and third rounds.

“From his pocket mobility to his accuracy and mental makeup, he has a lot of qualities that you look for in someone to develop at the next level,” McShay told USA TODAY.

However, McShay also noticed a flaw in Garoppolo’s game that would need to be tweaked in the future.

“He comes from that Baylor offense and the language doesn’t translate very well,” McShay said. “As one general manager told me, “He’s going to have to learn a new language.”

These next two weeks will determine if it will be Garoppolo or Brady under center against the Steelers. If Garoppolo is the starter, Eastern will hear these words once again on NBC, “…Quarterback, Eastern Illinois University.”

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]