In one of the most memorable scenes in “Remember the Titans,’’ coach Herman Boone summons his backup quarterback off the bench when the team’s starter suffers a game-ending injury.
When the newly anointed starter expresses apprehension about his sudden ascension, the coach gives a pep talk. A pep talk in which he used some creative exaggeration, culminating with, “Your team needs you tonight. You’re the Colonel, you’re going to command your troops!’’
An inspired Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass leads his team to victory and an undefeated season, and the 1971 Virginia state championship.
Jimmy Garoppolo will get no such in-game pep talk from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The surprises are over for Garoppolo. With Tom Brady’s decision “to no longer proceed with the legal process’’ surrounding his four-game Deflategate suspension, Garoppolo knows exactly when he will officially begin commanding his troops: Sept. 11, 2016.
That’s when Garoppolo and his Patriots (yes, his Patriots) open the regular season with a matchup with the Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.
No big deal. Just a nationally televised “Sunday Night Football” matchup for your first NFL start.
Garoppolo, no stranger to big games at University of Phoenix Stadium — he picked up a Super Bowl ring there — also knows exactly when he will return to his role as Brady’s understudy: Oct. 3. No matter Garoppolo’s record during his four-game audition, the third-year quarterback will be back holding a clipboard when the Patriots travel to Cleveland Oct. 9.
The silver lining to the Brady suspension is that the Patriots will get a good sample size of how Garoppolo performs as the Colonel. If he can guide the Patriots to a 3-1 record, or even 2-2, he will solidify his place as an NFL starter, whether it’s in New England or elsewhere.
While Brady is under contract until 2019, Garoppolo’s deal is up after 2017. If the former second-round pick performs well, the Patriots can try to lock him up or trade him while his value is at its maximum — perhaps even for a first-round pick. There’s never a shortage of teams looking for a good young quarterback, and Garoppolo won’t turn 25 until November.
There’s also the possibility he could walk at the end of the season and sign wherever he wants, and his hometown Bears likely will be in the market for an arm.
The Patriots are aware of this, and the possibility of Garoppolo exiting New England went into the team’s thinking when it drafted Jacoby Brissett in the third round last spring.
“There’s always an element of team planning, especially at that position,’’ Belichick said in April when asked if Garoppolo’s contract status influenced his decision to draft a quarterback. “If you can, [you] try to look ahead a little bit. If you can’t, then take it as it comes. Things change but there’s an element of planning at all positions on your team, certainly that one.’’
So, the immediate plan for Garoppolo is to keep Brady’s seat warm while simultaneously establishing himself.
Patriots backups like to say they practice just like the starters so they expect to perform like starters. That mind-set, according to Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, will serve Garoppolo well.
“Whether it’s an injury or whatever, when you have people to step in, you expect them to do the job and play well,’’ said the former Colts and Buccaneers coach. “And I think that’s what’s going to happen, that’s the way [the Patriots’] system works, that’s what they’ve always done in the past, and I don’t think it’ll be any different.’’
Dungy said it’s important for Garoppolo not to get caught up in anything but the task at hand.
“This is what we’re trained for, that’s what we’re prepared for, and we’re going to do things that really fit [your] skill set and we’ll expect [you] to play well. That’s why [you’re] on the team,’’ Dungy said when asked what he’d say to Garoppolo. “Not to feel any pressure that he has to be Tom Brady and not ask him to do the same things that Tom does. He has to do the things that we felt he could do when we selected him and what he’s been trained to do. And he’s got a lot of teammates that are going to help him win.’’
That last sentence is certainly true as this Patriots’ offense has the potential to be explosive. It’s possible Garoppolo will just have to be a guiding light rather than a guiding force.
If the even-keeled and perpetually smiling Garoppolo can command his troops half as well as “Sunshine,” his big-screen backup brethren, the Patriots will take it. You never know, it could lead to a Hollywood ending.
AT THE MOVIES
Stellato’s book to hit big screen
Staying with the movie theme, another sports film will soon be in the works and this one has a local flavor. Author/agent Sean Stellato’s book, “No Backing Down,’’ which chronicles the remarkable story of the 1994 Salem High football team, will soon be destined for the silver screen.
The first run of Stellato’s book sold out and the second edition includes a testimonial from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. On Friday, Stellato will host a movie gala at the Salem Waterfront Hotel, where the film’s screenwriter will be unveiled.
Stellato, who was the quarterback of that 1994 squad, said he and his teammates were inspired by coach Ken Perrone, who led the Witches through tumultuous times, including a teacher strike on Halloween. Perrone was a teacher as well as a coach, putting him in a precarious position.
“The ultimate triumph was our coach, who banded us together,’’ said Stellato, who went on to play football in prep school, college, and in the Arena Football League. “I honestly feel like he was a first-generation Bill Belichick. He was a historian, he was very passionate. We didn’t have maybe the most talent but he was able to bring out the most in his players. He was able to recruit kids at school to play and really buy into what he was all about.
“It was really a pride thing. We dressed 100 deep. We used to intimidate teams because he had players from end zone to end zone during the national anthem . . . But the thing I really loved about him — when I say historian — he really emphasized who came before us. You really wanted to play and give everything you have for him.’’
Even as he was living the story, Stellato knew it was special and knew at some point he would have to tell it for those unfamiliar.
“I grew up watching ‘The Natural’, watching ‘Friday Night Lights,’ watching ‘Hoosiers’ and ‘Rudy’ and all those great stories,’’ he said. “As I got older, I was always brought back to this team and what we went through and I thought, ‘This is a story that has to be told.’ ’’
Stellato is confident his book and the subsequent movie will have broad appeal because it is more than a football story.
“I think if you look at this story, the title of the book — ‘No Backing Down’ — says it,’’ said Stellato, who represents 19 NFL players. “If you look at society today, everybody can relate, because it resonates with everybody because at some point in your life you have to make a decision, you have to stand up for what you truly believe in, and you have to go after it.’’
You can find more information on Stellato’s project here.
Crowell regrets Instagram post
Isaiah Crowell is the latest pro athlete to learn the hard way that it is better to think twice before you speak once — or post on social media.
Crowell, the Browns’ leading rusher last season with 705 yards, was upset over the killing of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and responded in a reprehensible way.
Crowell posted a graphic and disturbing Instagram depiction of a police officer being stabbed in the neck by a person wearing a hood with his face covered and a backpack with an American flag on it. Blood is seen gushing from the officer’s neck and mouth, with the assailant’s hand covering it. Crowell captioned the image: “They give police all types of weapons and they continually choose to kill us . . . #Weak.’’
It appears Crowell realized his mistake quickly and he deleted the post after about a minute. The damage was done, however, as it was screenshotted before making the rounds on social media.
Equally disturbing as Crowell’s post is that it was liked 33 times in the short time it was up. It was posted the day before five police officers were shot to death in an ambush in Dallas.
Crowell apologized through the Browns and on Twitter last Monday. It read in part, “It was an extremely poor decision and I apologize for that mistake and offending people . . . My values and beliefs do not match that image . . . We have to be better as a society. It’s not about color, it’s about what’s right and wrong. I was very wrong in posting that image. Every single life matters, every death as a result of violence should be treated with equal outrage and penalty.’’
Though thoughtful, Crowell’s apology wasn’t enough for some, and Stephen Loomis, the president of Cleveland’s police union, threatened to keep law enforcement officers from working at Browns home games unless Crowell went to Dallas to donate money and apologize to the families of slain officers in that city.
Crowell answered Loomis by issuing a second apology on Facebook on Wednesday: “By posting that picture I became part of the problem. I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. To back that up, my first game check is going to the Dallas Fallen Officers Foundation.’’
Here’s hoping others join Crowell, who isn’t expected to be disciplined by either the team or the NFL, in becoming part of the solution.
Another loss for Browns
One of the worst tough-luck stories of the offseason came to light last week when it was learned that Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant likely will miss the year with a torn pectoral muscle. A Harvard graduate, the 30-year-old Bryant suffered the injury lifting weights. He had surgery last Tuesday and the timetable for his recovery is 4-6 months. Bryant, who led the team with six sacks, is the seventh starter lost from Cleveland’s defense from last season. Linebacker Karlos Dansby, safety Donte Whitner, and defensive end Randy Starks were jettisoned because of their big contracts, while safeties Tashaun Gipson and Johnson Bademosi, and linebacker Craig Robertson left as free agents.
The Summer of Gronk rolls along with Rob Gronkowski lightheartedly revealing that fellow Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett’s book, “Hey A.J., It’s Saturday,” was “the first book I can read. A children’s book.’’ Reminded during his appearance on “First we Feast” that he penned his own book, “It’s Good to be Gronk,’’ the All-Pro quipped, “I know. I couldn’t read it. It was too advanced.’’ . . . Gronkowski, known for his end zone spikes, will unveil a new celebratory dance — the Jerky Jam — Friday at Tony C’s in Boston. After showing off his new moves, Gronk will teach the dance to 50 lucky fans . . . The NFL’s supplemental draft was held Thursday and no one of the six players available was selected. It was the third time in four years that no one made a selection and you have to wonder how long the league will keep up this tradition. Teams that make a choice lose a pick in the corresponding round in the next regular draft. The Patriots last made a supplemental pick in 1999 when they grabbed Arizona State cornerback J’Juan Cherry in the fourth round. He never appeared in an NFL game . . . Abiola Aborishade, the former UMass Dartmouth receiver who has been hanging outside Gillette Stadium for months hoping for a tryout with the Patriots, said he’s tapered off his appearances since OTAs finished up but plans to “pick it up again right before training camp.’’ . . . Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos has had an interesting summer. A magician, he’s made it to the live rounds of “America’s Got Talent’’ by performing a pair of card tricks. He’s next scheduled to appear on July 26, the day before the Eagles report to camp. If he’s unable to get back in time, the Eagles may make him disappear . . . Don’t miss Stephanie Apstein’s recent Sports Illustrated profile on the increasing number of former athletes who have become wine magnates. Former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, and Rick Mirer, are the focus of the “where are they now” story. The pair, chosen 1 and 2 in the 1993 draft, were forever linked on the gridiron and have continued that to the vineyards. Can’t speak for Mirer’s vintages, but Bledsoe’s 2012 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon is what wine connoisseurs call, I believe, yummy . . . Tony Dungy sounded like his usual humble self last week when talking about his upcoming enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “You think about the cream of the cream of the NFL being in there,’’ said Dungy, who was 148-79 during a 13-year coaching career with the Buccaneers and Colts. “To think that you’re going to be in that group is still hard to believe. It still doesn’t seem real. It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be very special.’’ Dungy was the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl when his Colts beat the Bears after the 2006 season . . . You can bet the Patriots won’t forget Calais Campbell’s thoughts about facing Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 1. The Cardinals defensive end told CBS Sports Radio he was “licking my chops’’ with anticipation. “You know it’s always exciting when you get a guy like that for his first game because he’s going to be nervous,” Campbell said. “He’s probably going to be sitting there holding the ball a little longer or trying to get rid of it quick, throwing bad balls. As a vet, we definitely pride ourselves on welcoming [newcomers] the right way.’’ . . . There were plenty of highlight moments from the ESPY Awards — Patriots fans had to love local boy/host John Cena’s not-so-veiled shot at Roger Goodell — but one of the best came from Chiefs safety Eric Berry. He received the Comeback Player of the Year award after returning from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In his inspirational acceptance speech, Berry said, “I’m not a victim of circumstance. I’m not a victim of diagnosis. I can do it if I put my mind to it, and I have a wonderful support system. So, I’m not accepting this award for me, I’m accepting it for all the fighters out there. Regardless of what your circumstance is, regardless of what your diagnosis is, just keep pushing and always remember, honor your legacy, baby, and you can push through it.’’
Money well spent
Quarterback Andrew Luck was rewarded with a six-year, $140 million deal for his performance with the Colts. Despite a down year in 2015, the 26-year-old has put up near historic numbers in his first four seasons. The players with the most passing yards through four seasons:
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.