Jerry Glanville had a few simple rules during eight years as an NFL head coach and three at the college level: Throw the ball deep; leave game tickets for Elvis at will call; and always run the ball on fourth and 1.
He never broke that last rule until he met a kid named Jimmy Garoppolo.
Glanville coached Garoppolo at the 2014 East-West Shrine Game, an all-star game for NFL Draft prospects. Facing fourth and 1 with eight seconds left in the second quarter, Glanville called a quick slant for Garoppolo, which he calmly completed to receiver Matt Hazel for a touchdown.
“[Former NFL general manager] Floyd Reese called me and said, ‘A Jerry Glanville team threw the ball on fourth and 1? That’s impossible,’ because I didn’t do that any time in my life,” Glanville said by phone last week. “But I said, ‘This kid is that good. I didn’t even worry about it.’ ”
We’ve heard a lot over the past couple of weeks from the coaches who have worked directly with Garoppolo in the past — certainly from Syracuse coach Dino Babers, Garoppolo’s coach for two years at Eastern Illinois who has told any radio or TV station that will listen that Garoppolo was the “William Tell of college football” and has the second-quickest throwing release in NFL history, behind only Dan Marino.
But as an NFL observer, I’m not too interested in how Garoppolo played in college. Of course he was accurate and productive and looked like the second coming of Marino. He played at the old Division 1-AA level, never facing any NFL talent.
A far more relevant evaluation of Garoppolo came during his two weeks on the college all-star circuit back in January 2014 — first at the East-West game, then the next week at the Senior Bowl.
Playing against far better competition, Garoppolo excelled in a high-pressure environment in which he was forced to quickly adapt to a new playbook and unfamiliar teammates.
Garoppolo was already known by the lower-level scouts, but made a real name for himself with the GMs and head coaches with his performance at the all-star games.
Garoppolo excelled at the East-West week working with Glanville and former NFL coach June Jones. Garoppolo clearly stood out above his peers during practices, led a 66-yard touchdown drive in the final 51 seconds of the first half, and was named offensive MVP of the game.
“I knew very little about him going in,” Glanville said. “He came in about a sixth-rounder and left as a second-rounder. I said, ‘June, is it me?’ He said, ‘It’s not you, this kid is that good.’ ”
Glanville ran his classic run-and-shoot offense all week, calling nothing but deep passes, and said Garoppolo had no problems pushing the ball down the field. Glanville was impressed with Garoppolo’s quick release, tight spiral, and accuracy, but also with Garoppolo’s “spirit.”
“It’s no fun coaching if your quarterback is afraid. Well, he’s not afraid of anything,” Glanville said. “So right away I like him. And it’s no fun coaching if your quarterback doesn’t have a spirit inside him, isn’t full of life. Well, he’s got the spirit inside of him. He’s got the fire.”
“He reminds me of [Brett] Favre, mentally,” added Glanville, who was the Falcons’ head coach when they drafted Favre and then traded him after a year. “This guy is special. After Deflategate, everybody is so upset [Tom] Brady isn’t going to play, and I said, ‘Don’t even worry about it, this other guy will come in and play and they’ll still be winning, and you’ll find out that Brady’s backup is not normal.’ This guy is so far from being normal.”
OK, so we’ll pump the brakes a bit on the Favre comparison. But Garoppolo kept the positive momentum going the next week at the Senior Bowl, against even better competition.
“He had a very good week there. He belonged,” said Phil Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl and a former Browns GM. “I just remember a positive vibe about him. And as more higher-ups saw him and talked about him, you got the sense that this is not a fourth-round pick, this might be a second- or third-round pick.”
Garoppolo was the second-best quarterback of the week, behind Derek Carr but ahead of quarterbacks from heralded college programs, including Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, and Miami’s Stephen Morris. Not only did he perform well in practice, he was bright and attentive in meetings.
“He’s a very talented individual. He sits in the meetings and asks great questions, so I think he’s adjusted really well,” said Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, who coached Garoppolo at the Senior Bowl. “What a great opportunity for him to come here and showcase his talent.”
Of course, for all the positive talk about Garoppolo, no one knows how he will perform once the bright lights hit him on Sept. 11 at Arizona. But it’s hard finding anyone who has a bad thing to say about Garoppolo, and two years of experience in the Patriots’ system should only have helped him improve.
“The things that stood out were his mobility and the velocity that he threw with,” said one AFC scout as he looked back through his notes from 2014. “He had a very good two weeks on the all-star circuit. The under-center stuff was encouraging. He just still needed to work through progressions. Common issue for spread QBs.”
THAW IN THE AIR
NFLPA, league on the same page
The relationship between the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association can be described as icy at best since DeMaurice Smith took over as executive director in 2009. There has been a contentious lockout, several court cases challenging Roger Goodell’s disciplinary powers, and an egregious abuse of trust in which the owners hid more than $100 million from the NFLPA via an improper ticket exemption, which they were forced to repay in February. Oh, and the NFL showed no mercy in pummeling the NFLPA in the recent Tom Brady case.
So you can imagine our surprise when we saw not one, but two e-mails last Monday announcing two collaborations by the NFL and NFLPA. The first was Goodell arbitrarily bumping Browns receiver Josh Gordon down from Stage 3 of the league’s drug program and allowing him to return after serving a four-game suspension. The second came a couple of hours later when the NFL and NFLPA announced a joint program to punish teams that don’t follow the league’s concussion protocol.
Goodell usually gets himself in trouble when he just makes up the rules (see: Rice, Ray), but he made the right move with Gordon, giving a talented but oft-troubled receiver one last opportunity to work his way back into good graces and reach his potential on and off the field. By bumping Gordon’s suspension down a classification from Stage 3, it allows Gordon to participate in team meetings and functions (but not practices or games). Substance abusers such as Gordon need the support network of their teammates, coaches, and trainers to help them stay clean, not to be banished and left to deal alone.
And the new guidelines monitoring the concussion protocol are a welcome change, particularly in the wake of the Case Keenum incident with the Rams last year. Teams can be fined a minimum of $50,000 and docked as much as draft picks for not properly following the protocol.
The NFL and NFLPA also announced a jointly created Field Surface & Performance Committee, which will “perform research and advise the parties on injury prevention, improved testing methods, and the adoption of tools and techniques to evaluate and improve field surface performance and playability.” This committee comes in the wake of Reggie Bush tearing his ACL on the rubberized track in St. Louis last year.
Why are the NFL and NFLPA singing “Kumbaya” all of a sudden? First, I think both sides realize that the constant bickering does neither of them any good. It detracts from the product on the field, makes both sides look petty, and generally shines a negative light on a very profitable business. Robert Kraft always says how important it is to have unity and harmony in the NFL, and he’s absolutely right.
Second, the owners are already starting to think about their next labor deal. The current one expires in the spring of 2021, but the owners have already discussed extending it, given that it has worked out very well, financially, in their favor. The owners are trying to convince the union that this is a good deal for both sides, and I think what we’re seeing now is the owners extending some olive branches to the NFLPA as part of an ultimate goal of extending the CBA.
AROUND THE CIRCUIT
New Dolphins coach sets tone
A few early training camp notes from around the league:
■ New Dolphins coach Adam Gase looks like he’s trying to set the tone about preparation and punctuality. The Dolphins released their early training camp schedule, and the practices are planned down to the minute.
Friday’s practice was scheduled to end at 10:41 a.m., Saturday’s session at 10:13 a.m., and tomorrow’s practice at 10:37 a.m. The Dolphins certainly could use some discipline after showing little respect to the previous coaching staff in the final year-plus of its tenure.
■ How soft are NFL training camps getting? Two-a-days were outlawed, contact has been cut way back, and most teams stay in posh hotels during camp rather than the college dorms of yesteryear.
Now the Broncos are taking it a step further, with coach Gary Kubiak allowing his veteran players to sleep in their homes during training camp, per 9News in Denver. Only rookies are required to stay in the team hotel. To be fair, former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan also allowed veterans to sleep at home from 2003-08 before Josh McDaniels reinstituted the hotel requirement in 2009.
■ Got a great quote from Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears on Wednesday about the start of yet another training camp. Fears is 61 years old and this is his 35th NFL training camp (29 with the Patriots), yet he can’t get enough of the grind of camp.
“Are you kidding? Am I excited? Man, we work all year for this,” Fears said. “I’m basically abandoning my family for the next six months. So if you don’t love what you’re doing, if you don’t enjoy this, you’re not going to do this. It’s as simple as that.”
Officiating clinic set for the area
The NFL is once again holding a Football Officiating Academy for men, women, and student athletes ages 17-30 in the Boston area. The free, one-day clinic will offer an introduction into football rules, on-field officiating mechanics, and tips on getting started in football officiating. The clinic will be held on Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the McCarthy College Center at Framingham State University. You can register and find further information here.
How dumb does the Jets-Ryan Fitzpatrick contract dispute look now? The two sides had a very public and sometimes ugly negotiation, in which Fitzpatrick wanted a one-year deal worth at least $12 million, while the Jets wanted to sign Fitzpatrick to a three-year deal to help smooth out the salary cap hits.
After months of bickering, they finally met in the middle on the eve of training camp — Fitzpatrick got his $12 million (plus $3 million in incentives), while the Jets were able to add a second year to the contract that will automatically void but lower his cap hit to $7 million (similar to what the Patriots did with Darrelle Revis in 2014).
Why the Jets and Fitzpatrick couldn’t have figured this out three months ago is beyond me. And it cost Fitzpatrick two to three months of working with his receivers and building on a positive 2015 season.
Pete Carroll is the oldest head coach in the NFL, turning 65 in September, yet isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Carroll signed a contract extension on Wednesday that takes him through the 2019 season, when he will be 68 years old. Bill Belichick, the second-oldest coach (seven months younger than Carroll), is also signed through 2019. The league’s third-oldest coach is Bruce Arians, who turns 64 in October and has built the Cardinals into one of the NFL’s top teams. And the fifth-oldest coach is John Fox, who turns 61 in February and led a team to the Super Bowl three years ago. NFL owners needing to hire new coaches next offseason might want to keep in mind that younger isn’t always better . . . The Seahawks signed GM John Schneider to a contract extension as well, keeping the highly successful Schneider-Carroll pairing together for the next four seasons. Schneider, a Green Bay native who got his NFL start with the Packers, previously had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave to become the GM of the Packers, but said his new contract no longer has that clause. Eliot Wolf, the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf, is believed the be the heir apparent to current Packers GM Ted Thompson . . . In the wake of the NFL clearing Peyton Manning of all HGH claims, the Packers are reportedly pressuring Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers to interview with the NFL about their own HGH allegations, according to Pro Football Talk, which surely can’t sit well with the players or their union. It also goes in stark contrast to how the Patriots passionately defended and represented their players in the Ted Wells interviews . . . Went to Greece on vacation earlier this month, met several Europeans from all over the continent, and told many of them I’m from Boston. “You know, Tom Brady?” I said, receiving only blank stares in return. “Oh, Kevin Garnett! Rajon Rondo!” was a common response. That pretty much everyone I met had never heard of Tom Brady but knew all about the Celtics speaks to why the NFL is so intent on holding international games. While football is king in America, there are huge gains to be made overseas.
Charles Tillman announced his retirement after 13 years in the NFL. The two-time Pro Bowler — nicknamed “Peanut” — was feared for his ability to force fumbles from his cornerback position. Here’s where he stands on the all-time list:
Watch Ben Volin and Jim McBride’s Day 3 practice report: