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Hannable: One plausible theory as to why Jimmy Garoppolo performs better in games than in practice

Ryan Hannable
August 16, 2017 - 9:41 pm

It’s becoming a real trend: Jimmy Garoppolo performs much better in games than he does in practice.

This came up last summer when Garoppolo had issues in training camp and in the preseason, but then led the Patriots to a road win in Week 1 against the Cardinals and played about as good of a two-quarter stretch as a quarterback could play in his second career start against the Dolphins in Week 2 before injuring his shoulder.

In the six quarters, Garoppolo went 42-for-59 passing for 496 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. 

It happened again last week in the first preseason game when Garoppolo struggled in the training camp practices, but then went out against the Jaguars and went 22-for-28 passing with 235 yards and two touchdowns in just over a half of action.

Garoppolo was asked after the game if he had a reason for his better play in games than in practice, but didn’t really have an answer.

“It’s not on purpose,” he said. “I don’t know. I try to go out there and practice well every day with the guys. I mean, you’re trying different things in practice sometimes. You’re working with different guys. But, I don’t know. I don’t think there’s really a rhyme or reason to it. It’s football at the end of the day.”

Maybe the answer is as simple as in games he doesn’t have Tom Brady looking over his shoulder.

This isn’t suggesting Brady is being a bad teammate or anything like that because it’s the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, last Thursday Brady was giving Garoppolo and Josh McDaniels a lot of input in between series’ on the sidelines. It’s the fact Garoppolo usually has to follow the greatest quarterback to ever play the game in practice and that can be extremely hard, and even frustrating at times.

Garoppolo 90 percent of the time follows Brady in 11-on-11 work in practice. Just say Brady goes out and threads the needle to Rob Gronkowski on a seam route over the middle, throws a perfect pass to Chris Hogan to his back shoulder on a comeback route when the ball is in the air before he even makes his break, then throws a dart to Julian Edelman on a slant and finishes his reps with a 40-yard touchdown strike to Brandin Cooks. It can’t be easy following this for any quarterback, yet alone the one behind him on the depth chart.

Then even after two hours of practice in the summer heat, Brady continues to work like a maniac with his resistance bands. Walking off the field with the rest of his teammates, there has to be some thoughts of, ‘Come on, man’ going through Garoppolo's head.

So why are the games different?

Garoppolo knows Brady won’t be playing and it’s just about him. Last year, Brady was suspended the first four games and he wasn’t even on the sidelines. Last week, even though Bill Belichick likes to keep everyone on their toes, Garoppolo had to have known Brady wasn’t going to play at all in the game. The offense was his and his alone in these instances and whatever he did wasn’t going to be compared to the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

It isn’t easy being a backup quarterback in the NFL, but even harder backing up a player like Brady. Not only does Garoppolo not know when he potentially will be able to start another game in the league, he also has to compete with him on a daily basis, which cannot be easy.

All of this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Garoppolo because almost any other quarterback in the same position would be likely feeling the same way. 

So when Garoppolo struggles next in practice, take a step back, look at the big picture and don’t jump to conclusions. There’s a reason for it and he’ll be just fine.

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