GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you know anything about coach Bill Belichick, you almost have to feel sorry for what quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is about to go through.
For all the wonderful things Garoppolo did Sunday night as the New England Patriots posted an improbable and stunning 23-21 upset over Arizona in the season opener, the day-after film review is going to be unpleasant.
Or to put it another way, Garoppolo ain't gettin' no love from his curmudgeonly coach. Not anytime soon. Certainly not with three more games to go before the return of Tom Brady from suspension.
Certainly not when guys like Brady have gone through much worse in film review.
You see, that's how it works with Belichick. You could string together a nice highlight film of Garoppolo from this game and plenty of other coaches around the league would be drooling in anticipation of his free agency. That's how it works with quarterbacks. A little success goes a long way in terms of getting paid and getting satisfaction.
Just ask Brock Osweiler.
On Sunday, Garoppolo engineered two field-goal drives in the fourth quarter and converted seven third-down situations on scoring drives throughout the game. That included a 3rd-and-15 play in which he had to break the pocket to escape the pass rush and find wide receiver Danny Amendola deep downfield for a 32-yard gain. Despite being under duress and having made mistakes earlier in the game, Garoppolo reacted with calm as he moved to his left and kept his eyes downfield to find Amendola.
Mention any of that to Belichick and you might as well have been discussing the joys of a proctology exam. Every mention of Garoppolo in the postgame press conference met increasing defiance from Belichick.
At one point late in the session, a reporter asked Belichick specifically about Garoppolo and how important it was for him to get in rhythm early in the game.
"I don't know, there were times when we threw the ball well, we executed crisply. There were times we needed to be more consistent on that, but that's everybody, the offense, the defense," Belichick said. "We just gotta…it's early in the year. It was a good win here tonight. We need to play better next week and succeeding weeks. It wasn't perfect though. It was a good performance against a good team."
That’s 71 words with no mention of Garoppolo by name or even a reference to an individual effort. On the final question, Belichick was asked why he seemed to be minimizing Garoppolo's performance when it was obviously the most impressive storyline of a game in which the Patriots won without either Brady or tight end Rob Gronkowski.
"I'm not really concerned about the storyline," Belichick said with dry sarcasm that drew a laugh from the reporters. "That's not high on my list."
That's not quite true. Participating in the storyline is not a concern to Belichick. Controlling how his players react to the storyline is critical.
The last thing Belichick wants is for Garoppolo, a third-year player, to relax in any manner. He doesn't ever want his players feeling too good about themselves and having that distract from the task at hand. That's why Belichick monitors every word that's said by or written about his players.
The stories about that are famous. The 2007 season, in which the Patriots went 16-0 before losing in the Super Bowl, was particularly rife with incidents. Before the season even began, first-round draft pick Brandon Meriweather was interviewed during training camp about what it was like to cover a slot receiver like Wes Welker in practice everyday.
Meriweather gave what appeared to be benign quotes that essentially complimented Welker. Meriweather called Welker one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
The next day in a team meeting, Belichick put Meriweather's quote on an overhead projector, read the quote aloud and then turned to Meriweather.
"What the [heck] do you know?" Belichick said.
Later that season, after the Patriots had reached the 8-0 or 9-0 mark, Belichick warned his players about all the positive press they were about to receive.
"They're going to be [performing a specific sexual act] on you in the papers," Belichick said with a dry, grumbling growl.
That's when veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel piped up and said, "Coach, what was that you were saying about [a specific sexual act]?"
Along the same lines, Belichick gives very little ground even when it comes to Brady. All that Brady's four rings and future Hall of Fame status get him is maybe a cup of coffee in the morning.
That's so Brady can be fully alert as Belichick rips his mistakes just as hard or harder than any other player.
On Monday, Garoppolo can expect the same. Whatever glory Garoppolo may have experienced on the plane ride back across the country will be short-lived by the time he sits down to review the tape of the game.
The time to celebrate is over. The time to move on to the next game is now. There is no give to Belichick when it comes to preparation and focus. In the weeks and months leading up to this game, Belichick has refused to let Brady's suspension become part of the storyline in the facility.
While Patriots fans and even team ownership continued to moan about the mistreatment of Brady, Belichick moved on. He controlled the focus of his team.
It is perhaps Belichick's greatest trait, among many. Over the years, it has never waned, as wide receiver Julian Edelman recalled.
In 2010, Edelman was in his second year with the Patriots and was in a cold tub trying to soak the soreness out of his body. It was roughly midnight when Edelman left, but Belichick happened to be walking out around the same time. Belichick had spent the night reviewing tape while also working out on a treadmill.
"In my second year in the league, I was doing a cold tub at like 12 o'clock at night at the facility, just happy to be on the team, and Coach was there on the treadmill, watching film," Edelman said. "We just so happened to walk out at the same time, and I asked him, 'Coach, it's pretty unbelievable, you do this all the time.' He goes, 'It beats being a plumber.' Nothing wrong with plumbers or anything, but it's unbelievable. He's just the most disciplined, hardworking guy, and that's why we have a team that tries to do the same."