It’s been almost three years to the day since Jimmy Garoppolo was traded from the New England Patriots to the San Francisco 49ers. Today, the now-49ers QB1 goes back to where it started, when the 3-3 49ers take on the 2-3 Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.
“I wouldn’t say it’s drastic, but I’m around him all the time and know him pretty well, so, I can tell he’s excited,” said 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan. “It’s been some time since he’s been back there and he’s got a ton of respect for everyone there, and I know he’s got a lot of good friends there. So, anyone in that situation is always, there’s always a little more excitement for the person than usual.”
Garoppolo started the 2016 season for New England when then-Patriots QB Tom Brady was suspended over Deflategate. He went 2-0 but was injured in Week 2 and didn’t start again until he was in the red and gold. His first 49ers’ start came against the Bears in Chicago, which was special, as Garoppolo is from Arlington Heights, Illinois. His feelings about going back to Boston are similar, but different
“It’s an exciting week,” Garoppolo said earlier this week. “Get to go back to where it all started for my NFL career, but it’s a little different than the Chicago week. I feel like I’ve come a long way, learning the offense and things like that. So, I feel a little different going into this one, but the excitement level, it’s the exact same. It’s an exciting week and can’t wait for Sunday.”
For Garoppolo’s former coach Bill Belichick, the success the quarterback has had comes as no surprise.
“…[He]t just looks like about what I thought it would look like to me,” Belichick said. “He’s a quality player. The 49ers gave him a contract that reflected their confidence in him going forward to lead their team, won the NFC championship last year behind him. So I think that all speaks for itself.”
When Garoppolo arrived on the west coast three years ago, life was different, but there were similarities that made the adjustment easier.
“It was quite a change, honestly,” Garoppolo said. “Whether it’s the organization, the fan base, the weather is drastically different, which I really like the West Coast weather…Honestly everything was different. The one consistency, I would say, is the locker room. It was a similar atmosphere as far as people being together, pulling in the same direction. That was one thing that, when I initially got traded here, I was just going to be a free agent at the end of the year, but it really stuck out to me just how together this team was. It was a young team, but at the same time, the connection, it was real and guys weren’t faking it. That’s why I fell in love with this team.”
Other than the 49ers, no NFL team knows Garoppolo as well as the Patriots do, but Garoppolo is pretty similar with them, and their defense, as well.
“You’ve got to be on your toes,” Garoppolo said. “I think finding the safeties is a big part of that. They do a good job mixing and matching their DBs. A lot of different personnel groups, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to go play ball. They’re going to do something that we’re not preparing for, and at the end of the day, you’ve got to play ball.”
Belichick drafted Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois. He thought a lot of the quarterback then, and he thinks a lot of him now.
“…[H]e showed a lot of toughness and leadership with the opportunities that he got to play for us or practice,” Belichick said. “When Tom [Brady] wasn’t able to practice, sometimes during the week he would step in there, and did the things that are very high level. Everybody here had a lot of confidence in him. It’s one of those situations where you just know you’re not able to keep all the players….And so I’m glad that it’s worked out for him in San Francisco. I hope it doesn’t work out on Sunday, but otherwise, happy that he has the opportunity to play for a great coach and a great organization and play on a great team. I think he deserves that. He certainly worked hard and I’m happy for him and his family.”
The feelings of admiration are quite mutual.
“Coach being my first coach in the NFL, he was just very honest,” Garoppolo said. “Really never beat around the bush. He was very black and white with everything that he did and that’s kind of how I am. I really appreciated that from him. Just whether it was my first day there or when I got traded, he always shot me straight. I think just when you’re talking about just man to man, that’s all you can really ask for at the end of the day.”
Today at 1:25 pm PT, the two become frenemies for about three hours or so. Can the student beat the teacher? Let’s talk around 4:25.
*Header image provided by 49ers.com