Ryan Mallett Trade Puts Spotlight on Jimmy Garoppolo as Patriots' Future QB

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IAugust 31, 2014

Patriots QB Ryan Mallett (15, right) is on his way out of New England, while rookie Jimmy Garoppolo (10, left) remains as Tom Brady's one and only backup.
Patriots QB Ryan Mallett (15, right) is on his way out of New England, while rookie Jimmy Garoppolo (10, left) remains as Tom Brady's one and only backup.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Ryan Mallett era is over in New England. It never truly began anyway.

The Patriots traded Mallett to the Houston Texans for a conditional draft pick in 2015. The trade was first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. According to Paul Perillo of Patriots.com, the pick is a seventh-rounder that could turn into a sixth-rounder if Mallett plays greater than or equal to 40 percent of the snaps.

Mallett gets to reunite with former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. The Patriots get what they could.

Now, the spotlight is on Jimmy Garoppolo as the one and only successor to the face of the franchise, Tom Brady. There will be no debate over which backup will take Brady's place in the event of an injury, because there's only one backup to choose.

Let's get a couple things clear: First, the Patriots probably wouldn't have traded Mallett—especially for a sixth-round pick—if they did not feel that Garoppolo outplayed him in the preseason.

Second, the Patriots were never going to get better compensation for Mallett than the third-round pick they used to draft him back in 2011. 

Now that Mallett is out of the picture, though, the focus is clearly on Garoppolo as Brady's backup. 

The rookie second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois played well this preseason in the first three games, before taking a slight step back in his first full-game action against the New York Giants in the preseason finale. Garoppolo got off to a rocky start in minicamp, organized team activities and training camp, but once the lights came on and Garoppolo got into the game, he stepped his game up.

2013 preseason
PlayerCompAttComp %YdsYPATDINTRate
Ryan Mallett142653.81616.21085.6
Jimmy Garoppolo467958.26187.85199
Source: NFL.com

Make no mistake; no one wants to see Garoppolo in at quarterback during the regular season. Not now, anyway. The rookie proved he is a rookie with his shaky performance against the Giants. 

That being said, Mallett was entering the final year of his contract, and the Patriots were either going to trade him for whatever they could get or watch him walk away in March 2015 and receive no compensation whatsoever for their years of work developing him.

Who knows, Garoppolo could wind up riding the same carousel of Brady's backups, in and out of the fold, in a few years' time.

It can't be a coincidence, though, that Garoppolo is the antithesis of Mallett as a quarterback. Mallett is tall and can probably throw a pigskin a quarter-mile, but he doesn't have good footwork or mobility and has an elongated release. Garoppolo may be smaller and may not be the strong-armed quarterback Mallett is, but he has great footwork, a quick release, mobility in the pocket and nice touch on his passes.

There are obviously areas Garoppolo must improve. He still holds the ball too long in the pocket at times, which forces him to use his mobility to get away from a rush. He uses his eyes well at times but also still stares down his receivers at other times. He has begun to eliminate doubts about his arm strength and his ability to fit passes into tight NFL windows, but he couldn't completely answer those questions in one offseason.

As the future of the Patriots at quarterback, he doesn't have to. The pressure may be greater on Garoppolo by virtue of being one injury away from significant playing time, but barring a worst-case scenario, he has four years to prove that he can be what Mallett never got a chance to be: the successor to Brady.