Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman

'I wouldn't be where I am without him' -- Meet Patriots coach who helped make Jimmy G., other QBs

Ryan Hannable
August 16, 2018 - 12:37 am
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For the most part, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady get credited for the success of the Patriots offense.

But there’s an equally indispensable member of the staff who flies so far under the radar that the casual observer probably has no idea who he is.

Assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski.

McDaniels technically owns the title of quarterbacks coach, but Schuplinski is the one who primarily works with the rookies when they arrive in the organization. It’s his third year as assistant quarterbacks coach, following three years as a coaching assistant. 

Schuplinski can be credited with developing Jimmy Garopppolo and Jacoby Brissett, both of whom raved about the coaching they received from him in phone interviews this week with WEEI.com.

“I can’t even tell you how many conversations I had with Jerry just man-to-man, him helping me out and getting me acclimated to the NFL life,” Garoppolo told WEEI.com. “I really thank him for that. I probably wouldn’t be where I am at without him.”

“He’s definitely one of my favorite coaches I have ever had. I say that sincerely,” Brissett told WEEI.com. “He’s a guy I consider more of a friend than a coach.”

Given Brady's and McDaniels’ long-time working relationship, expecting a rookie to come in and immediately be on the same page as them with the verbiage, playbook and system is an impossible ask. That's where Schuplinski comes in, and during training camp it’s customary to see him almost attached to the hip of the youngest quarterback on the roster.

A few years ago that was Garopppolo. Then it was Brissett. Now it's Danny Etling.

While the young quarterbacks receive fewer reps than Brady, the mental reps Schuplinski gives them while they're watching prepare them for when they do get their chance. Schuplinski often challenges the young QBs to explain the reads and progressions he sees to make sure he’s ready when his number is called.

“He was with me from day one,” said Garoppolo. “Josh McDaniels was our quarterbacks coach, but Jerry was my quarterbacks coach at the time. He taught me all the ins and outs of the playbook. Anything I had a question on, he was my guy. He was extremely helpful.

“At the beginning you’re going into a system where a guy has been doing it for however many years Tom has been doing it with Josh, so they are kind of speaking a different language initially. You’re just trying to play catch-up when you are in there, and Jerry was kind of the guy. He knows all the stuff and he brings you up to speed. Not that the room was separated by any means, but he was there for you any time you had a question.”

The system McDaniels and Schuplinski have in place works not only because of how talented Schuplinski is, but also because of how familiar the two are with one another. They played together at John Carroll University, along with director of player personnel Nick Caserio and director of pro scouting Dave Ziegler.

There are a number of characteristics which make Schuplinski so good, but the two that stand out most are how much he cares and how comfortable the players are around him.

“Coach Schuplinski and I have a great relationship. He has just been tremendous in helping me develop,” Etling said. “It speaks volumes to how hard he works and how much he cares about the development of every single player with the time he puts in and what he does for everybody. It’s an incredible person and resource to have. He’s an incredible coach.

“As hard as he works, and you see it yourself as a player, he just makes you want to work harder. Seeing how much he cares makes you want to care more. Tremendous coach and tremendous teacher.”

Young quarterbacks coming into the Patriots system are naturally going to struggle, but even when things are bad, Schuplinski is always there to offer his thoughts on how to make the situation better.

Schuplinski’s capacity for caring is not lost on his players.

“When I first stepped into the facility for rookie minicamp, he definitely took me under his wing and I think the process led right up until my last day there,” Brissett said. “I think what his role was and what he felt like he embraced was he was going to go through the learning curve with me. That was something I respected and I took to heart. I am sure he didn’t have to, but he went with me through my ups and downs and the learning process with the offense. I think that paid off a lot for me.”

Part of being a good coach is relating to players and Schuplinski is someone who the players have no problem talking to, even beyond the game of football. This is especially important for young players who are getting used to being in the NFL and are no longer in the college environment.

“Anything you had questions about, or if you were having a rough day even off the field that didn’t have to do with football he was there to talk about it and I really appreciated Jerry,” Garoppolo said. “I got to know his family and all his daughters and everything. They are just good people. We connected pretty immediately when we first met each other. It was something that did us well down the road.”

“He was a great mentor for me,” Brissett added. “That was on and off the field. He was someone I always leaned on and just talked about anything. We would talk about life, family — things away from football that made our relationship so special.”

The importance of Schuplinski’s work became evident at the start of the 2016 season when Brady was suspended for four games.

Garoppolo got the win in Week 1 in Arizona on Sunday Night Football and then got the Patriots off to a 21-0 lead in Week 2 against the Dolphins before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Brissett, who had only been in the organization a few short months and probably wasn’t 100 percent ready for NFL play, was forced into action.

The NC State product went 6-of-9 passing for 92 yards, while adding 12 yards rushing as he helped the Patriots hang on for a 31-24 win. Garoppolo still wasn’t ready just a few days later when the Patriots hosted the Texans on Thursday Night Football, so Brissett got the start and played a major role in the 27-0 blowout win.

Brissett went 11-of-19 passing for 103 yards, while adding 48 yards rushing, including a 27-yard touchdown run. While Brissett had better numbers in this game than the previous Sunday against Miami and Schuplinski and Brissett received praise from Bill Belichick afterwards, the Miami game meant more to him.

“Not practicing and doing scout team, I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but I was preparing on the side with Jerry,” Brissett said. “Staying after to ask him questions and things like that. I think it came to truth.”

According to Brissett, both he and Schuplinski received game balls following the Week 2 win.

Schuplinski’s work has been recognized not only internally within the Patriots, but across the league. In the days following the Super Bowl this past year, it was reported McDaniels was going to take Schuplinski with him to Indianapolis to be his offensive coordinator. Obviously, when McDaniels decided against it, Schuplinski stayed in New England as well.

Remaining in New England means playing a role in developing Brady’s eventual successor. Whether it is next year or the year after, the organization is likely going to need to draft a player with the intention of having him eventually replace the 41-year-old quarterback.

Like with Garoppolo, Brissett and Etling, that player will spend extensive time with Schuplinski at the beginning of his New England career. And if his track record is any indication, the future of the Patriots should be in good hands.

Related: Danny Etling adjusting to life with Patriots

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