NEW YORK — Bill Belichick did the ungrateful New England Patriots fans a favor Friday.
Based on the Twitter response to the Patriots’ second-round draft pick, those fans didn’t appreciate his generosity. At 62 years old, Belichick might not still be coaching the Patriots when Jimmy Garoppolo — the team’s new backup quarterback — is having the best years of his career. This was a decision for the distant future. The only way Belichick knows how to build a program, however, is to build it for the long haul.
The Patriots came into the draft with depth needs at almost every position, and one could argue that they filled the most important one Friday night when they took Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois.
“I think you’re better off being early than late at that position,” Belichick said in his post-draft news conference in Foxboro, Mass.
Garoppolo said he was surprised to be picked by the Patriots, but based on his demeanor at Radio City Music Hall after the pick, it was as if he had been groomed since birth to be the next Patriots’ starter. Garoppolo — unscripted — even gave the Patriots’ company line about preparing for every game like he was going to start. It’s the same wording that every backup on the Patriots’ roster says when the starter at their position is dealing with an injury.
Garoppolo also appeared like he’ll be able to come to New England without distractions in his life. It was noticeable that Garoppolo showed up to the draft with his parents, three brothers and five former teammates. There wasn’t a girlfriend in sight for Jimmy G, and the Patriots probably would prefer it to stay that way — it gives him more time to read his playbook, arrive early for workouts and stay late for film sessions.
Garoppolo is in a perfect spot coming out of a small school, since the idea of “competing” for the starting role with his boyhood idol, Tom Brady, seems preposterous. It will be baby steps for Garoppolo, and his first challenge will be to outplay Ryan Mallett, if the fourth-year pro makes it to training camp this summer and isn’t traded.
Garoppolo was drafted for the long term, and he seems to understand and embrace that.