FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo mostly towed the company line while speaking to the media for the first time since his tumultuous but ultimately uneventful offseason. But there were obvious instances Tuesday after the team’s first minicamp practice when, unprompted, he would talk about earning a bigger role and becoming “the guy” with the Patriots.
It’s not exactly a bombshell that a backup quarterback actually would rather start, especially a 25-year-old with as much promise as Garoppolo. And usually quotes about earning a role go into the recycling bin because they’re so trite.
But Garoppolo never has spoken so openly about a possibility, no matter how slim it is, of unseating starter Tom Brady. And because Brady will be 40 years old this season and Garoppolo is in the final year of his contract, these quotes actually are pertinent.
“Obviously I want to play,” Garoppolo said. “That’s just the competitor in me. Everyone out here wants to play. We come out here and compete every day for that opportunity. If you go out and earn it, it’s yours.”
That’s the line head coach Bill Belichick preaches, but it would take a whole lot for a quarterback to come to New England and earn that spot to play over Brady, who just won Super Bowl LI while coming back from a 25-point deficit.
“Just come out here and compete,” Garoppolo said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. You’re going to earn your spot. Nothing’s going to be given to you, especially here. If you’re gonna be the starter, you gotta earn it.”
Brady earned it Tuesday. He went 13 of 17 in 11-on-11s and 16 of 29 overall, while Garoppolo was 4 of 18 in 11s and 10 of 27 overall.
Garoppolo said his successful six quarters as the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2016 made him hungrier this season.
“That’s the competitor in me, though,” Garoppolo said. “You’re used to playing, used to being the guy, and you gotta go earn it.”
Garoppolo didn’t come any closer to becoming “the guy” Tuesday, when he was grounding passes in the rain. And Brady still is manning every first-team rep with the Patriots in organized team activities and minicamp. But the Patriots must make a decision with Garoppolo after the 2017 season. They can franchise him and keep him, franchise him and trade him, let him walk or try to reach a contract extension with him. If Garoppolo is dead set on playing sooner than later, then the latter seems unlikely. Unless he proves he’s “the guy” for the starting role before then.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images