FOXBORO — Bill Belichick opened his press conference recapping the Patriots’ second day of the 2014 draft by making a joke about curfews and blowing past them.
But in taking Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round — with the 62nd pick overall — Friday night, the Patriots are trying to make sure they don’t allow Tom Brady to play past his prime in New England.
Brady will be 37 next season and is signed through 2017. Ryan Mallett is a free agent after this season and, according to various media reports, could be dealt to the Texans before training camp even opens.
So, not wanting to be caught short, the Patriots drafted the strong-arm QB with a quick release with the hope that he can learn from his idol, Bardy, and maybe even supplant him toward the end of Brady’s run in New England.
“We know what Ryan’s contract situation is,” Belichick said. “We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization.”
Did Belichick talk with Brady about the pick?
“I talk to Tom on a regular basis,” Belichick said.
Belichick did not specify whether he drafted Garoppolo as a potential backup this season or the quarterback of the future in Foxboro but did hint that Garoppolo would certainly have to learn a lot quickly to be game-ready.
“I don’t think any rookie player is ready to come in and play in the National Football League at any position, certainly quarterback is in that,” Belichick said. “Every player that comes into this league has a lot to learn, a lot to improve on and has to learn a new system and all the things that we see at this level. It’s the same game, but it’s a different game. They all have a lot to learn. We try to teach it to them the best we can.
“My crystal ball isn’t any clearer than yours [in the media] is, so I don’t know what going to happen this year. We’ll see when they get on the field, we’ll see what they can produce and contribute. That will be up to them and the people they’re competing against. I can’t control that.”
Here is the complete Belichick late-night press conference, conducted just before 11:30 Friday night:
BB: Late night tonight, past curfew. So let’s see, second round: so we took Jimmy Garoppolo. We spent a little time with him this spring. He’s got a lot of qualities that we admire in a quarterback. He’s been a very productive player ‘ little different level of competition, but hopefully he can make that adjustment. With the situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out but I think you’re better off being early than late at that position. In the third round, we felt that the trade we made with Jacksonville ‘ we’ve been able to pick some players that have been productive for us on the third day of the draft. Hopefully that will be the case tomorrow, however those get utilized, whether we pick them there or use them to position for players that are sliding ‘ that are on the board so that we can slide our picks one way or another. We’ll see how that goes, but hopefully we’ll be able to be productive with those picks and continue to improve our team this weekend. I feel like the two players we’ve added are good people that fit in well in our system. Hopefully they will be able to be productive for us.
Q: On thing Jimmy talked to us about was his work ethic. What do you know about it at Eastern Illinois and how big of a factor was that in evaluating him?
BB: I mean, I think he’s worked hard. He’s a hard worker in the weight room, prepares well. Seems like he had a real good grasp of what they were doing and could explain it very thoroughly and the adjustments they had to make and so forth. I’m sure he’s on top of it, but this is a whole different level than that, with all due respect to the program he was from. I’m not trying to minimize that, but it’s a little bit different level.
Q: Do you view that situation as similar to 2011 when you drafted Ryan Mallett in the third round and had Brian Hoyer here and you gave him a year to learn before he maybe bumps the next year if that’s how it unfolds?
BB: It could. I don’t know. It could. I don’t have any control over how anything is going to unfurl. We put the players out there and they compete and we evaluate them. I can’t control that.
Q: I was asking more about having three quarterbacks.
BB: We’ll do whatever is best for the team. We’ve had four, we’ve had three, we’ve had two. So whatever’s best for the team, that’s what we’ll do. Nothing is set in stone. We’ve had different numbers of guys at different positions. I don’t think there’s any concrete formula. We’ll do what’s best for the team.
Q: Do you envision Ryan Mallett being here as part of the competition?
BB: He is.
Q: Today, but in the summer? You turn on the TV and the league that is broadcasting the draft is talking about ‘
BB: Well go talk to them. If they’ve got all the answers, go talk to them. A lot of people have got all the answers, so go get the story from them.
Q: You mentioned that there are a lot of qualities that you like in Jimmy. Can you give us an idea of what those are and is the ability to throw the deep pass one of them?
BB: Well I’d just say in general without getting into any specifics or we’d be here all night the general qualities a quarterback needs to have are being able to manage the game, being able to do what the team needs to win, be accurate, be smart and be productive. I’d say he’s done those things.
Q: Was there one thing that perhaps separated him from the other quarterbacks you brought in?
BB: I don’t know. Each player has their own, everything that comes with that player, you can’t pick and choose ‘ take this guy, give it to that guy. Take that guy, give it to this guy. Whatever the guy is, he is. And that’s what you draft. You draft the total person. That’s what we do.
Q: You spoke of the level of competition. How significant were his performances in the All-Star games?
BB: I don’t think it hurt. I don’t think it was, I don’t think it hurt him. I don’t know how much it helped him, but I don’t think it hurt him, let’s put it that way. It’s certainly a better level of competition. The game plans are simple. The defense can’t play two coverages or whatever it is. It’s not like that’s some very difficult ‘ it’s not really what a quarterback does, but it’s a better level of competition and so forth. There’s some value to it, but it’s not a real game, if you will.
Q: How about the interaction that he has with an NFL staff? Is there anything you can glean from that?
BB: I’m sure when you coach those All-Star games, you’re able to spend a whole week and you can certainly learn a lot about all the players, their ability to process information, how important football is to them, how attentive they are, how much they’re really putting into it. If you ask them to change something form what they’ve been used to doing ‘ how adaptable are they? How set in their ways are they? How coachable are they? Those kinds of things. You certainly [can] gain all that when you don’t do it and you’re looking at it from the outside. I think it’s a lot harder to evaluate that. But I think it’s a big advantage when you coach those players over several days. You tell them something and go out on the field. Do they correct it? Can you move on? Does the pace slow down? Can they not correct it? Can they get it without really going over it on the field? Can you just tell it to them in the classroom and they make the adjustments? You learn things like that. You get a better feel for specifically what you’re asking them to do and how well they do it. When you’re watching don’t know exactly sure what they’re being told. You have to kind of think you know but you don’t know for sure. It’s always easier to evaluate the players you coach than somebody else’s players. Certainly the coaching there is a little bit different than what is in college and there’s an exposure to the pro staffs. But, the overall complexity to the game, that’s the bottom line. The complexity of the game is a lot different than when you’re competing, having game plans and that kind of thing, as opposed to an All-Star game, especially at that position.
Q: How big of a difference is there projecting a quarterback, who like you said have to process so much information, than it might be at another position?
BB: I think all the players coming into this league from college have a lot to learn ‘ some more than others. I don’t know exactly what he was told there anymore than what I know exactly what Dominique [Easley] was told at Florida. I have an idea, but we’ll just have to see what happens when they get here. That’s the way it is with all players. I don’t want to assume anything. We’ll give them all the information at the same rate and see how they learn it. Some guys may need a little more time. Some guys may need a little less time. In the end, they usually can get it one way or another if they work and it and put the time in and work at it. If they don’t, then they probably won’t learn it as well.
Q: Can you share where you had Jimmy ranked on your board among quarterbacks?
BB: Of course not. We don’t get into that.
Q: Every draft takes on a different feel. Do you see a big drop in players form the low 60s to the 100s?
BB: There’s depth at certain positions. There’s less depth at other positions. To tell you the truth, I’m just trying to focus on how we can make the most out of our opportunities, not trying to characterize or grade or evaluate an entire draft. I’m just trying to do what’s best for the Patriots. That’s my job. I’ll let you guys analyze the rest. I don’t know.
Q: In the trade with Jacksonville, were you guys trying to acquire more picks or was it just something that materialized at the last minute?
BB: No, it’s just what I said it was. I felt like the value that we moved back, 12 spots, and added a sixth round pick ‘ I felt the value of moving back for whichever player we pick tomorrow based on where we were that we could maintain the integrity of that value and add a pick so that’s why we did it.
Q: When you’re evaluating a player, what do you use to gauge his mental toughness? Or is that something you have to wait and see when you actually get him in here?
BB: We can’t wait to evaluate. We’re getting paid to try to figure that out, so we can’t really wait to do it. We can, but we go with the information that we have. I’d venture to say that every player we evaluated this year and in previous drafts, they’ve all been through challenging situations one way or another at some point in their life, whether on the field, off the field, injuries, unsuccessful seasons, playing time, whatever it happens to be. Other things that happen to them in life and their families and their personal lives and so forth. I think you can gauge to some degree how mature they are, how they’re able to deal with the problems that they’ve had. We’ve all had them. We all have to deal ‘ none of us lead the perfect life. Things have gone wrong. You have setbacks and how do you deal with it? How do you overcome it? You know there’s going to be some more and you try to evaluate their mental toughness or maturity or ability to deal with problems based on what you know about the player and what he’s done in the past and maybe you get some insight from coaches or other people that are involved with him. But then you try to put all that together and that’s part of the equation. It’s not the entire one but it’s part of it.
Q: In your interactions with Jimmy before the draft, what did you notice about his ability to process information?
BB: I think he’s a smart kid. I don’t think that’s an issue.
Q: There was a scouting report that came out today that was supposedly the Patriots’ report on Johnny Manziel. Was that actually a Patriots document?
BB: With all due respect, I hate to admit this but I don’t think I’ve been online in a couple days or weeks or whatever, so that’s not really an important thing to me. I don’t even know what’s online and what isn’t online. But I would say we probably have, I can’t even imagine, 10,000 pages of information. It’s a lot of information. There’s no way I can sit up here and tell you that I’ve read it all. I’ve read a fraction of it. But we have a ton of information on all the players that are in the draft. What’s online, you should go talk to the geniuses that are online. I don’t know. MyFace, YourFace, InstantFace. Go talk to whoever you want that does that stuff. I don’t know.
Q: Yesterday when you were speaking of Dominique Easley, you said the competition he faced in the SEC weighed heavily ‘
BB: I wouldn’t say that it weighed heavily. It is what it is. We can’t control it but there are a lot of NFL players that come out of that conference ‘ this year, last year, the year before and I’d venture to say next year. So you’re watching guys play against NFL players ‘ eventually. I wouldn’t say that’s a huge advantage or a huge disadvantage. I think it is a high level of competition and you can see him against other players that are, I would say, eventual NFL players. There are other conferences that you might have one guy off a team or you might have one or two guys. Like scouting Chris Jones last year. Not that we drafted him but we did a lot of work. Again, with all due respect, there just weren’t a lot of NFL players. There were a few but ‘ or Josh Kline or guys like that, they weren’t playing against a lot of other guys that are going to be or were in previous years coming into the NFL. That’s all I meant to say. I don’t think it’s a huge advantage. I just think you’re looking at a little bit different level of competition. But that doesn’t mean that players like [Khalil] Mack at Buffalo aren’t great players. It’s not their fault. They can just line up and play against the teams that are on the schedule, including Ohio State this year. But there just aren’t very many of those games at some of those programs.
Q: What about the competition level that Jimmy faced?
BB: Yeah, I would say his level of competition is less than, certainly, less than, obviously. He’s not playing at the level of competition in the SEC or that kind of thing. But again, that’s not his fault. He’s playing against the guys that are out there, like a lot of other players. I think it will be an adjustment for him. He’ll see guys that are a lot bigger, a lot faster, a lot more athletic than the guys he’s seen on the field the last couple years. The guys in the SEC are going to see that too. But the guys from other conferences, it’s just going to be a higher level of competition. It doesn’t mean they can’t adjust to it. A lot of times that competition brings out a better performance in those guys because it’s demanding. So, we’ll see.
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