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Jimmy Garoppolo's greatest impact: Sparking Tom Brady to higher level

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Belichick on Garoppolo trade: 'We had to make a decision' (1:32)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick explains the decision to trade Jimmy Garoppolo for a draft pick. (1:32)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick said he couldn’t have asked for more from Jimmy Garoppolo in his time with the New England Patriots. Among Garoppolo’s contributions included almost immediately taking a leadership role of the 2014 rookie class, providing valuable insurance at the game’s most important position, and then performing well when thrust into regular-season action.

Perhaps Garoppolo’s most significant contribution was how his presence seemed to light a fire under Tom Brady.

When the Patriots selected Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, Belichick famously said, “We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is.”

At the time, Brady was set to turn 37, his play had slipped a bit, and his contract was going to expire in 2017. He was coming off a 2013 season in which he had completed just 60.5 percent of his passes (the second-lowest total of his career), had 11 interceptions, and his yards per attempt of 6.92 was his lowest mark since 2006.

In his conference call Tuesday, Belichick was asked about that comment regarding Brady’s age and if the decision to trade Garoppolo three-plus years later is a reflection of Brady exceeding his expectations since that time.

Belichick answered by relaying how he assesses players in the latter stages of their career and “year to year.”

“So, the expectations aren’t over a long period of time or longer window like they are with a player coming into the league where you look at a player’s growth in three to five years,” he said. “When you get players that have reached a certain point, then it’s their ability to maintain. I’m not saying there aren’t things players can do to improve, but it’s more maintenance and maintaining that high level of play.

“Trying to predict that, I don’t think it’s easy. It’s not something I try to do a lot of. I look at it as year-to-year. I learned that a long time ago, and I’d say that advice has served me well.”

Brady’s year-to-year performance since that time -- which includes leading the Patriots to two Super Bowl championships -- has been exemplary.

His completion percentage improved in each year, from 64.1 to 64.4 to 67.4. So, too, did his passer rating, from 97.4 to 102.2 to 112.2.

So Brady has done what few quarterbacks have been able to pull off: get better with age.

In the process, he held off Garoppolo, whose presence as the highest quarterback drafted in Belichick's tenure helped raise his game to a higher level.