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Deflate-Gate: Get to Know Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Brady's Substitute

Tom Brady has been suspended four games for his role in Deflate-Gate. That means his backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, has a rare opportunity at the spotlight.
Image: Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo during an NCAA football game against Tennessee Tech at O'Brien Field in Charleston, Illinois in 2013.Stephen Hass / AP

Now that Tom Brady's four-game suspension has been reinstated, the man in line to take his place — once again — is 24-year-old Patriots back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

If that sounds familiar, it's because that was the situation almost exactly a year ago when Brady's suspension was first imposed. Garoppolo, a prized-but-untested prospect, was poised to step in to start the 2015 season before a federal judge lifted Brady's suspension last September.

Back to the bench Garoppolo went, and there he mainly stayed. Garoppolo managed to get into six games last season, completing just one pass for 6 yards.

In case you missed that highlight, allow us to re-introduce Jimmy Garoppolo:

He was better than Romo

Garoppolo, a native of the Chicago suburbs, played college ball at Eastern Illinois University, alma mater of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Garoppolo broke several passing records set by Romo. He won the small-college version of the Heisman in his senior year, when he passed for more than 5,000 yards and 53 touchdowns in 14 games.

He has a good alumni network

Eastern Illinois may be a small school, but it's pretty well represented in the NFL — and not just by Romo. Super Bowl-winning head coaches Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints) and Mike Shanahan (Denver Broncos) went there. That network may be valuable if he performs well and becomes in demand as a starter.

He has a "quick trigger" ... and "short arms"

Just before the 2014 draft, the NFL's scouting report on him listed among his strengths his "very quick trigger and good wrist snap that translates to a smooth throwing motion and clean, compact delivery (no windup)." The downside? The report said he was "a tad undersized with small hands and short arms. Uses a three-quarters delivery that could lead to batted balls."

Jimmy Garoppolo during an NCAA football game against Tennessee Tech at O'Brien Field in Charleston, Illinois in 2013.Stephen Hass / AP

He was an insurance pick

The Patriots picked Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft, 62nd overall. From the start, head coach Bill Belichick said he chose Garoppolo to avoid getting stuck with a sub-par quarterback in the event that something bad would happen to Brady — a move that turned out to be prescient.

He has appeared only in blowouts or losses

As Brady's understudy, Garoppolo has gotten very limited playing time the past two seasons. He has completed 20 of 31 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown in mainly mop-up duty. He is under contract with the Patriots for two more seasons.

He may be trade bait

Garoppolo's name has been dangled in possible trades to allow the Patriots to re-establish a first-round pick for Thursday's NFL Draft. The team was stripped of the pick as part of the Deflate-Gate punishment. Several teams in need of quarterbacks have been seen as possible trade partners for Garoppolo, with the return to the Patriots being a pick in the first round. Of course, the Patriots may now need Garoppolo's services as much as anyone.