Patriots Finally Find Their Heir Apparent to Tom Brady in Jimmy Garoppolo

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Patriots Finally Find Their Heir Apparent to Tom Brady in Jimmy Garoppolo
Jason DeCrow/Associated Press
The New England Patriots made Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo (above) the fifth quarterback taken in the 2014 NFL draft.

The New England Patriots are hoping that Tom Brady magically discovers the fountain of youth and never has to retire. But they know, deep down, that's not going to happen. Because a fountain of youth doesn't exist.

They may seem like the invincible franchise, but they know that Brady is mortal—and therefore, so are they. So instead they're relegated to continue throwing darts at the board, trying to find the heir apparent to Brady—or, at least, his backup for the next few years.

By selecting Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round Friday, the Patriots are hoping they've found it.

In that sense, the Patriots are hoping Garoppolo can be to Brady what Aaron Rodgers was to Brett Favre with the Green Bay Packers. Like Garoppolo, Rodgers waited a while in the green room before hearing his name called, but he enters a situation where he gets to learn from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.

"I remember when it happened, him sitting in the draft room and everything, waited a little while," Garoppolo said. "It's a very similar scenario, and it worked out very well for Aaron, so hopefully, it'll work out the same way for me."

The Patriots are certainly hoping they can go from one Super Bowl-winning, MVP-caliber quarterback to another, just as the Packers did. 

In order to improve their chances of a smooth transition, the Patriots had to start trying to draft quarterbacks to keep their depth chart stocked with at least one passer who is always developing, learning the Patriots offense under the guidance of Brady, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels.

But things don't always go as planned. 

If nothing else, the writing is on the wall for backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, who is set to become a free agent next offseason. There have been trade rumors swirling around Mallett for years, and Tom E. Curran of CSN New England reported before the draft that the Patriots were in talks with the Houston Texans to potentially reunite Mallett with former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

If Mallett is still on the roster after draft weekend is over, he may not be on the roster in another 10 months.

Of course, from there the burden falls on Garoppolo. The incoming rookie isn't going to see soft-shell defenses in the NFL like he saw week-in and week-out in the Ohio Valley Conference.

"Just the knowledge of the game," Garoppolo said when asked what he needs to improve before he gets to New England and when he arrives. "There's a huge learning curve between the college and NFL game, and I think just getting into the NFL system, being on an NFL team and learning from the veterans, I'll be OK with that. Just learn from the guys that have been there and done that."

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports compared Garoppolo to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, another former Eastern Illinois quarterback. Brugler points out that both are intelligent quarterbacks with a quick release and an ability to move in the pocket. Garoppolo, however, considers Brady his favorite player and someone he emulates his game after.

The Patriots and Garoppolo have an opportunity to set the stage for the post-Brady era, but it's up to both parties to do their part. The Patriots have added skill position talent to their offense in recent years but still have some question marks at wide receiver and at tight end (behind Rob Gronkowski).

Without some significant steps forward from Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Danny Amendola, the Patriots offense could be in trouble in 2014 and beyond whether it's Brady, Garoppolo or Mallett throwing the ball.

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted all quotes obtained firsthand.

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