FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo isn't coming to New England from Alabama. Or Florida. Or LSU.
He's a proud product of Eastern Illinois of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-AA). While there he was tremendously productive, breaking records set by quarterbacks Tony Romo and Sean Payton.
Garoppolo's success aside, Bill Belichick admitted on Friday night that the level of competition Garoppolo faced in college was not among the nation's elite.
The Ohio Valley Conference is not the SEC.
"I would say his level of competition is less than, certainly, less than, obviously," Belichick said. "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."
Garoppolo sought out top-end competition during the pre-draft process, participating in college all-star games such as the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
Belichick didn't go so far as to say his performances in those games will help Garoppolo adapt to the NFL, but they couldn't have hurt.
"I don’t know how much it helped him, but I don’t think it hurt him, let’s put it that way," Belichick said. "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."
From what Belichick has seen of Garoppolo, he believes that an ability to process information and a dedicated work ethic will allow the young quarterback to eventually learn the things he needs to learn to become a productive player.
"I mean, I think he’s worked hard," Belichick said. "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."
But, again, there's a world of difference in what's going on in the NFL versus what's happening at Eastern Illinois.
"This is a whole different level than that, with all due respect to the program he was from," Belichick said. "I’m not trying to minimize that, but it’s a little bit different level."
Now it's the job of the coaching staff in New England to teach Garoppolo. And it's Garoppolo's job to keep up.