By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — One of the biggest questions facing incumbent Patriots starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is what the Pats’ game plans will look like with Tom Brady’s backup under center for the first four games of the season. Interestingly enough, former NFL coach Brian Billick told the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian that he believes the Patriots are “not going to alter the offense at all” with Garoppolo, which basically means he may need to be the second coming of Dan Marino to succeed.
Well, fortunately, one of Garoppolo’s former college coaches sees some Marino in him. Say what?
Dino Babers, now the head coach at Syracuse, coached Garoppolo for his final two years at Eastern Illinois, so he should know a thing or two about Jimmy G’s playing style. Appearing on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, Babers compared Garoppolo’s accuracy and quick release to Marino, a.k.a. the Miami Dolphins legend who may be the greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl.
“You take that accuracy and put it with someone who has the second-fastest release I’ve ever seen. The only release I’ve ever seen faster was Dan Marino’s,” said Babers. “He has [the] second-fastest release I’ve ever seen. And you’ve got an outstanding quarterback.”
Garoppolo had a successful run with Babers at Eastern Illinois so it’s not surprising that the coach would praise his former quarterback, but this is Tommy Heinsohn-level honkery right here. Greg Stiemsma is Bill Russell, Avery Bradley is Michael Jordan … I certainly hope Babers is right, but it’s a take that’s hard to take seriously. Not that Garoppolo has no chance to be Dan Marino, but maybe compare him to a more reasonable name for a guy with a quick release. Nope, straight to Marino.
I’m a youngin’ compared to most pundits who watch and analyze the game of football, so while I was technically alive for most of Marino’s career I was never sentient enough to truly appreciate his game-changing talent. But thanks to the internet I can go back and watch some classic clips on Youtube, and they are objectively awesome. Sure, Marino never led his team to a championship and that’ll knock him down a few pegs on the GOAT list, but as a pure passer he’s one of the most fun players to watch. His quick release is no joke – I don’t care what anyone says about rings, Marino was amazing.
That said, if Garoppolo’s talent is even a small fraction of Marino’s, that would obviously be a major win for the Patriots.
There’s no doubt that Garoppolo has a quick release and good accuracy, but it still won’t be known how good he can be until he’s actually taking meaningful snaps at the NFL level, and you can argue that he has never done that for even one play. Accuracy and release mean nothing if you don’t have the intelligence or mental toughness to make plays under pressure against complicated, ferocious defenses bearing down on you, and until Garoppolo proves he has that intangible thing that Brady has and, yes, Marino had, it’s hard to look at Baber’s comments with anything but a crooked eyebrow.
But as a Patriots fan, I certainly hope he’s right.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.