Patriots

Garoppolo's former QB coach has no doubt Jimmy G is ready

Garoppolo's former QB coach has no doubt Jimmy G is ready

A friend of Jimmy Garoppolo said the news of Tom Brady standing down and accepting a four-game suspension would do nothing to alter the thought process of Garoppolo. The former Eastern Illinois star has been preparing as if he’s the starter since Day 1.

But it’s not that simple. The responsibilities of being the No. 1 guy are extensive, the weight can be prohibitive. So, can someone with limited reps, playing behind the best QB of his generation, naturally slide in and navigate the dangerous NFL waters for the Super Bowl favorite? Garoppolo’s personal quarterback coach for nearly a decade, Jeff Christensen, asks, "Why not"?

“He’s had three years to be around Tom to watch, and Jimmy is a visual learner,” said Christensen, founder of Throw It Deep, one of the top QB schools in the country. “He’s had three years to be around Coach Belichick, who’s probably one of the top five defensive minds in maybe the history of the game of football. If you are a student, which he is, I have to believe he’s going to be substantially better than he was the last two years, and I have no reason to believe he’s going to do anything but succeed.”

The maturation of Garoppolo has been evident to anyone who’s paid attention through a slew of offseason training activities, mini camps, training camps and preseason football over the past two-plus years. The confident-but-in-over-his-head rookie has shown a greater command of the offense, to the point where those in the huddle quickly and wisely accept that the kid knows exactly what he’s doing. 

“When they [the QB] know that they are right, when they open their mouths and do something, and move somebody, and you know you’re right when you do it, that’s a very secure feeling that builds on your confidence,” noted Christensen. “It’s the simple things that when they start pinballing and stacking on top of each other, all of a sudden you get a guy who is really sure and that helps out how they deliver and throw the ball. It all plays into that picture as to what a great QB looks like, if that makes sense.”

Christensen has worked extensively with Redskins starter Kirk Cousins, the QB who made the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, Robert Griffin, expendable. He’s also worked with new Houston QB Brock Osweiler and Ryan Tannehill in Miami. He says Garoppolo’s one of those players who just gets it.

“Oh yeah, his technique is so good and the ball comes out so quick, which is what we did for seven years, teaching him how that happens, that he can make certain tight window throws out of instinct,” Christensen said. “When he sees a picture, he can just shoot it, whereas a lot of guys see a picture that appears tight and they choke it down and can’t throw it because they know they can’t get it in there. Jim can do that on instinct. That’s a 12-foot window 12 yards away and I can still put that ball right in that little hole. I got Gronk there. Bang. There’s no thought process that goes into it. It’s just like a computer, and because he gets the ball out so quickly he can make a lot of third down and 7 throws that a lot of guys can’t.”

Pats fans have been able to see little snippets of that from Garoppolo, first as a rookie in a game in Kansas City, then multiple times in the preseason last year. But now that he’s the starter, presumably, for four games, teams will approach him differently, game plan to take away what he does well, explore avenues to unnerve him. The list of quarterbacks who’ve failed to deliver when the game speeds up and schemes become more complex is long. Then again, most didn’t have the support system that Garoppolo will have going into Arizona in Week 1.

“Coach Belichick knows all the possible things they are going to throw at him, so he’s going to make sure that they get him all the looks that he knows that he’ll probably get,” said Christensen. “It’ll be real comforting the first time someone tries a double-backer weak side blitz and leaves a cover zero and he’s got Gronk going down the middle and he throws a BB for a touchdown of about 42 yards and people are going to go, ‘Uh oh, maybe we shouldn’t be so aggressive with this kid’. It only takes one of those and everybody gets really hesitant to blitz a guy that can just calmly with his feet lift it and shoot it accurately in a millisecond and throw it accurately doing so.”
 

Eric Decker sees a "good fit" with the New England Patriots

Eric Decker sees a "good fit" with the New England Patriots

With less than a month until the start of training camp, free agent wide receiver Eric Decker is still without a team. Speaking with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Decker mentioned the New England Patriots as potentially a great fit playing under Josh McDaniels. 

Decker, 31, was selected by the Denver Broncos in the third round (87th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft when McDaniels was head coach. He spent his first four seasons with the Broncos, accumulating over 3000 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns. His last season with the team was the year they lost in the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks. 

Decker then signed a five-year $36.25 million contract with the New York Jets. He played two full seasons with the Jets before suffering a season ending shoulder injury in the early part of the 2016 season. He was cut later that summer and signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. 

Last season with the Titans, Decker played in 16 games, pulling in 54 receptions for 563 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots are projected to have a completely different receiving core than a year ago. Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola are gone via trade and free agency respectively. Julian Edelman missed the entirety of last season with a knee injury, and faces a four-game suspension after testing positive for PED's. Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt and Cordarrelle Patterson are the new additions joining Rob Gronkowski and Malcolm Mitchell in the passing game. 

There is no information confirming the Patriots mutual interest in Decker, while the veteran wideout has reportedly met with the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders regarding his services next season. 

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Curran: Brady's waffling is a little wearying

Curran: Brady's waffling is a little wearying

Somebody needs to tug on Tom Brady’s sleeve and let him know that fun’s fun, but he’s drifting into Brett Favre territory now.

Forty-eight hours hadn’t passed since the Oprah Orchard Interview in which Brady said his retirement was coming “sooner rather than later” and there he was on Instagram Tuesday afternoon insinuating in Spanish that he’s back to playing until he’s 45

Given that he’s 40 right now and his contract expires at the end of the 2019 season, 45 seems like later not sooner.

That’s standard fare this offseason.

There was Couch Brady in the Super Bowl aftermath, wondering what he’s doing it for anyway.

We had Robert Kraft in May saying that “as recently as two days ago [Brady)] assured me he’d be willing to play six, seven more years.

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Gotham Chopra, who produced TvT, said in March, “I think this idea that he’s going to play for four or five more seasons -- I mean, this is just me, the guy who has been around him for a while now -- I’d have a hard time envisioning that, to be candid. But we’ll see.”

Last month, Brady said he’s negotiated “two more seasons” with his wife, Gisele Bundchen.

During TvT, he said he was chasing “two more Super Bowls. That can be shorter than five or six years.” 

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter "Tom's intentions have not changed. He's consistently said he'll play beyond this contract and into his mid-40s, or until he feels he isn't playing at a championship level. I understand the constant speculation, but this is one point he's been firm about."

I’m not feeling the firm. Nor, it seems, are most people who have grown weary of the ping-ponging expiration dates Brady keeps floating.

I think you have to be either absent-minded or amazingly entitled to say with a straight face that Brady “owes” the Patriots, the fanbase or the media a hard answer on his retirement.

The guy has generated billions of dollars for the franchise. He’s provided 37 games -- more than three seasons -- of postseason football for the fans to revel in. He’s created almost two decades worth of content for us in the media to gravy train off of.

Until this past calendar year, Brady hasn’t outwardly put his family or personal “brand” anywhere near the top of the pedestal where football and the Patriots resided.

Now that he’s done so, some people (read: “morons”) don’t merely consider it jarring, they feel it rises to a betrayal of the bygone Brady, of Simple Tom and The Patriot Way, which was always a naïve concept anyway.

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Fortunately, Brady has a ways to go to match Favre’s Hamlet routine.

The former Packers quarterback started noodling about retirement after the 2005 season. Same thing after 2006. After the 2007 season -- in March of 2008 -- he actually announced his retirement.

Annnnnd by July he’d changed his mind and wanted back in. The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers more than ready to succeed Favre, told Favre to screw. He did. Favre played three more seasons with the Jets and Vikings, then retired. The three-year post-Green Bay wandering hardly seemed worth it and the annual “is he in or is he out?” conversation was a tedious exercise.

By comparison, Brady has years of waffling to go. But he’s definitely come out of the blocks fast with crazy promises of longevity.

Last May, barely 13 months ago, Brady was telling ESPN’s Ian O’Connor that he didn’t see why he shouldn’t keep playing past 45 if he still felt good.

“I’ve always said my mid-40s,” Brady said. "And naturally that means around 45. If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don't see why I wouldn't want to continue."

And 50? Why not?

"If you said 50, then you can say 60, too, then 70,” Brady said in the same interview. “I think 45 is a pretty good number for right now. I know the effort it takes to be 40. ... My love for the sport will never go away. I don't think at 45 it will go away. At some point, everybody moves on. Some people don't do it on their terms. I feel I want it to be on my terms.”

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That interview was one of a handful Brady did with the aim being to promote the TB12 Method. There was ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the book, the app and the Tom vs. Time docuseries, which began filming last summer. Having won his fifth ring, the time was right to maximize visibility. If that approach ran contrary to Patriots customs, well . . . sorry. What’s the worst that can happen?

How about a poorly-concealed, season-long pissing contest in which Brady was assailed for having changed and the coaching staff was assailed for being restrictive and unreasonable?

Which spawned Contemplative Tom, sitting on his couch during the final installment of TvT pondering what he’s doing it all for. 

I’m not sure Brady really appreciates how big this story -- his ultimate retirement -- truly is. Not just here but to sport in general. He should; he grew up rooting for Joe Montana. He understands Jordan and Tiger and Kobe.

Just before the Super Bowl, he was asked about retiring and he replied, “Why does everyone want me to retire?”

Was he being disingenuous? Or does he not get that his and the Patriots stranglehold on the NFL isn’t like Jordan’s on the NBA. It’s closer to Godzilla’s on Japan, and that every other NFL team and fanbase is counting the seconds until he walks.

That’s why every throat-clearing, every pause, every social media “like” is scrutinized for clues as to which way he’s ultimately leaning.

Maybe he doesn’t care. “Take Nothing Personal” is one of The Four Agreements. But the mixed messages -- over a period of time -- probably don’t help the brand.

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