The Patriots turn to their second straight offseason in which they are in dire need of help at quarterback.
It is doubtful that Cam Newton will be back after his mediocre season in 2020. Bill Belichick has a few different avenues that he can take, between trades, free agency, and the draft. At this current juncture, nobody really knows who will be the Patriot’s starting quarterback in 2021. Rumors are flying that the Texans might trade DeShaun Watson. There have been reports that Russell Wilson is unhappy in Seattle. Of course, any time a backup quarterback played well, such as Marcus Mariota, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Taylor Heinicke, they were automatically linked to the Patriots.
But what if the plan is Jimmy Garoppolo? Or better yet, what if the plan was always to bring back Garoppolo and everyone just missed the signs? It’s no secret that Belichick has always been in Garoppolo’s corner.
Garoppolo is under contract with San Francisco for the next two seasons, but there has been speculation that the Niners could move on from the 29-year-old, with New England being a possible trade partner based on the history between Belichick and Garoppolo.
If we really look back and reassess the chain of events from when the Patriots drafted Garoppolo to now, a case could be made that Garoppolo will find his way back to New England and be the Patriot’s starting quarterback in 2021.
NFL Draft 2014
Who can forget this draft pick? The Patriots were coming off a 12-4 season and a tough AFC Championship game loss to the Denver Broncos 26-16. That coming offseason, Belichick shocked the world and used his second-round pick, No. 62 overall, to draft quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois.
Even though the starting job clearly belonged to Brady, reports out of Foxborough suggested there was tension between the two quarterbacks and that Brady viewed Garoppolo as a threat. By the time Garoppolo’s rookie contract would be up, Brady would be 41 years old. None of that mattered since Garoppolo only played in 11 games through his first two NFL seasons. Even when he did get some playing time, it was minimal action late in games in blowout wins.
Patriots 2016 Season
Deflategate took over the nation in 2016, not that anyone needs a reminder. Brady served a four-game NFL suspension which opened the door for Garoppolo to get his first NFL start.
The Patriots opened the 2016 season on the road in Arizona. Garoppolo notched his first career win leading the Patriots to a 23-21 win over the Cardinals. Garoppolo played a good game going 24/33, for 264 yards, and one touchdown pass to Chris Hogan.
“He did his job,” receiver Julian Edelman said of Garoppolo. “He went out there and took command of the huddle and made plays when he had to.”
Garoppolo played well in his week one debut. He followed that up with a stellar performance in week 2. The Patriots beat the Dolphins 31-24. Garoppolo finished that game with an impressive stat line. He went 18/26, for 232 yards, and three touchdown passes. He threw two of those touchdown passes to Danny Amendola, and Martellus Bennett caught the third.
Regrettably for Garoppolo, a big hit from Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso, knocked him out of the game with 4 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Garoppolo suffered a sprained right AC joint after falling hard on his right throwing shoulder. Garoppolo was in visible pain. If it wasn’t for suffering that injury, Garoppolo likely would have thrown another touchdown pass or two in the second half.
Patriots 2017 Season
We all know the story all too well. At the time, Tom Brady was 40 years old and talking about playing until he was 45. Belichick also had then 25-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo waiting for his chance to take over. Brady wanted an extension to finish his career in Foxborough, but Belichick was skeptical of locking up a 40-year-old quarterback long term.
As reported by Seth Wickersham, Brady met with Patriots owner Robert Kraft multiple times to discuss playing longer. Wickersham also reported that Brady met with Belichick to discuss his contract status, but it didn’t go as well as Brady expected. The meeting ended in a “little blowup.”
From the article:
The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17 million to $18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady. Garoppolo and Yee rejected the offers out of hand.
Two weeks before the Nov. 1 trading deadline, Belichick met with Kraft to discuss the quarterback situation. According to staffers, the meeting ran long, lasting half the day and pushing back Belichick’s other meetings. The office was buzzing. The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans, and then, once again, find the best quarterback in the draft and develop him. Belichick was furious and demoralized, according to friends. But in the end, he did what he asks of his players and coaches: He did his job.
The Patriots traded Garoppolo after failed attempts of getting him to sign an extension. On October 31, 2017, the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. It was clear Belichick wanted to keep Garoppolo. In fact, Belichick evidently turned down an even better trade offer from the Cleveland Browns.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns were ready to offer a first-round pick to the Patriots. As a matter of fact, the Browns called the Patriots on October, 28 and offered them the fourth overall pick in the Draft. Belichick told the Browns Garoppolo was not available and then traded him to San Francisco three days later.
Belichick Offers Brady in 2017.
According to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, the 49ers originally called about Garoppolo, but Belichick instead offered Brady. A Patriots source confirmed to Miller that this is what happened, but team owner Robert Kraft put an end to any talk of trading Brady.
As stated by, NBC’s Ryan Burr, Brady, and his family felt privately that Brady could be traded by Belichick after 2017. Burr added, “This was a Kraft decision to make it clear Brady finishes as a Patriot.” Burr also reported, “Brady’s relationship with Belichick was not great and all his loyalty is to Mr. Kraft.”
It makes sense why 49ers General Manager John Lynch would roll the dice and try trading for the greatest quarterback of all time, but was Belichick really that high on Garoppolo that he was willing to trade Brady? Brady and his family certainly believed so.
Patriots 2018 Season
Brady and Belichick earned their sixth Super Bowl ring during the 2018 season, beating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. That incoming offseason, there were stories out there suggesting Belichick was retiring or seeking a head coaching job elsewhere out of frustration of having to trade Garoppolo.
As I reported on #ArbellasEarlyEdition Tom Brady and his family are making preparations to move once the school year is over. And Belichick inquired about coaching jobs in Washington and NY after Jimmy G. was traded. @NBCSBoston @NBCSCameraGuys
— Gary Tanguay (@Gary_Tanguay) January 17, 2020
On a conference call ahead of the Patriots’ AFC divisional round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, Bill Belichick gave a one-word answer when was asked if he will return as the coach of the New England Patriots.
“Absolutely,” he told reporters.
For what it’s worth, the Patriots released a joint statement from Kraft, Belichick, and Brady calling such theories about their relationship to be “unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate.”
Patriots 2019 Season
There were a lot of red flags during the 2019 season. For starters, Tom Brady’s new deal included a provision that did not allow the Patriots to franchise him for the 2020 season. The final two years were automatically voided on the last day of the 2019 league year, making Brady a free agent.
In a media session after a training camp practice in July, reporters asked Brady about his contract situation.
“Have I earned it? I don’t know, that’s up for talk show debate,” Brady told reporters. “What do you guys think? Should we take a poll? Talk to Mr. Kraft, come on.”
That statement wasn’t very convincing that Brady would be staying long-term, but at the time nobody knew he was leaving at the end of the season.
In terms of the football team and performance, the Patriot’s offense did not look right all year long. They struggled as a whole to sustain long drives and they struggled to score. Brady was visibly frustrated and looked miserable, even when his team had an 8-0 record.
To make matters worse, Garoppolo led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. That’s right, the guy Belichick’ wanted to keep long term over Brady was now in the Super Bowl with another organization. The 49ers lost to the Cheifs 31-20.
Patriots 2020 Season
For the first time since being traded in 2017, Garoppolo faced the Patriots in a matchup in Foxborough. In the week leading up to the game, Belichick was gushing over his former quarterback.
“Well, I think we all know Jimmy’s a quality player and can do all the things that a good quarterback needs to do. He led the 49ers to the NFC Championship last year. We saw a little bit of him at the end of the year last year in preparation for this game and, of course, the 2020 games that he’s played in, so I don’t think there’s any question about his skill level and what he’s been able to accomplish and what their team’s been able to accomplish. We’ll be ready for his best. I’m sure we’ll get it. He does a lot of things well.”
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Belichick praising his next opponent, but this was while he was talking about Tom Brady’s dependability and longevity. Belichick switched gears and just went on with high praise of his former quarterback. It was clear as day Belichick still isn’t over the fact he had to trade Garoppolo. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at how Belichick answered a question about Cam Newton in that same press conference.
“He has been impressive,” Belichick said. “I’m glad we have him. He has done a good job, earned everybody’s respect and trust here, and that’s not easy to do in a short period of time. He has done a good job.”
And let’s not forget about Super Bowl Opening Night when Garoppolo revealed Belichick still keeps in contact with him via text.
“Just congratulations, things like that. Keep things going. Coach and I, we had a great relationship. Great guy. Very honest. Very straight forward. I always appreciated him for that.”
Garoppolo called it “an honor” to exchange texts with the six-time champion Belichick.
These two guys clearly have a good relationship.
Patriots 2021 Offseason
According to Albert Breer in this week’s MMQB column, it is his understanding the Patriots initially acquired Brandin Cooks in 2017 via a trade with the Saints as a piece for Garoppolo, not Brady.
Breer wrote there was “the feeling being that the Patriots would play more of a downfield game once Garoppolo became the quarterback, presumably in 2018.”
This is an interesting report because if you look back at the timeline, it all makes sense. Just think about it, New England traded Garoppolo in the middle of that season. Then six months later, the Patriots traded Cooks to the Rams. At the time, trading Cooks suggested the Patriots were not going to be able to reach a long-term extension, but in Belichick’s mind, there was no need to keep Cooks since Brady, not Garoppolo was still his starting quarterback.
To sum it up, the Patriots desperately need to find a quarterback. Based on the history of events regarding Belichick, Kraft, Brady, and Garoppolo from 2017 to the present, it would not shock me if Jimmy Garoppolo is the Patriot’s starting quarterback in 2021. The fact of the matter is, Belichick never wanted to trade Garoppolo, but Brady’s strong play into his 40’s sabotaged Belichick’s rebuilding plan. So if Belichick has an opportunity to bring Garoppolo back, why wouldn’t he? Is it possible that was Belichick’s plan all along?
–Kevin Tame, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Tame