By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — These days, you can’t walk 5 feet in New England without hearing about Jimmy Garoppolo. The radios are pumping out his name at full volume, the TV shows are screaming about Jimmy G., and residents of the region are hollering out of their windows at passersby. Everyone’s got an angle on Garoppolo!READ MORE: The Story Behind Showtime's New Russell Westbrook Documentary: 'This Is Russell Claiming His Own Narrative'
That is, of course, with good reason. The Patriots are clearly up to something at the quarterback position. They gave Cam Newton the equivalent of a backup’s contract. They’d probably be comfortable riding into 2021 with him (really, they would), but they’re also keeping their options open.
Whether that means drafting a top prospect with the hopes that he becomes a starter in short order, or whether that means reuniting with old pal Jimmy G., well, that’s anyone’s guess. Bill Belichick has a history of keeping things close to the vest.
But with the Niners clearly dead set on drafting a QB at No. 3 overall, there are realistically not many teams that are particularly interested in adding Garoppolo to their operation at this moment in time. So for the time being, every Patriots whisper and report about an interest in Garoppolo feels like an accurate representation of the situation.
For now, we can assume that the Patriots may be hoping for some good fortune on first-round QBs on Thursday night, and if nobody falls to them, then it’s all systems go for the Jimmy G. reunion. The Jimmy G-Union, for short.
Here’s a quick look at why Bill Belichick would want that to happen, as well as the reasons that he and the Patriots are probably not all in on the concept right now. Some pros and some cons, if you will.
PRO: THEY’VE GOT HISTORY
Let’s be real: Running the Patriots’ offense is not for everybody, and it’s not for the faint of heart. So there’s something to be said about a guy who spent the first four years of his NFL career learning the intricacies of that system.
Granted, we never got to see much of what the fruits of that labor looked like, as Mr. Garoppolo played but one and one-half football games as the starting quarterback of the team. But he was flat-out dynamite in those two brief showings.
He was cool as a cucumber while engineering a game-winning drive on the road in Arizona in the fourth quarter, going 5-for-6 for 62 yards and completing a 32-yard pass on third-and-15 to set up the Stephen Gostkowski chip-shot field goal. That game began with a touchdown pass on the opening drive, too. A week later against Miami, he looked like Dan Marino, Joe Montana, and Johnny Unitas balled into one handsome man, slinging it for 232 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions … by the midway point of the second quarter.
Unfortunately for Jim, he got hurt by Kiko Alonso, and that was all we really ever got to see of Garoppolo in extended game action.
But that brief glimpse — and his ability to run the whole offense, finding every receiver, and doing so in a difficult spot — showed that he was getting the system, so there’s certainly something to build on there.
CON: JIM ISN’T GREAT
Mostly lost in that sparkling win-loss record of Garoppolo is the fact that he’s … kind of … just OK.
In 2019, his lone full NFL season as a starting quarterback, here’s where he ranked in some key categories:
PASSING YARDS: 12th
PASSING TDS: Tied-4th
INTERCEPTIONS: Tied-8th most
COMPLETION %: 5th
SACKS: Tied 14th-most
PASSER RATING: 8th
Now, some of those are super good, particularly the touchdowns and the Y/A. It’s good stuff. But it’s obviously just been that one year — a year that just so happened to be the one when George Kittle and Deebo Samuel combined for over 1,110 YAC, and a year when the Niners’ rushing attack ranked second in yards per game and led the league in rushing touchdowns.
Garoppolo followed that up with seven touchdowns and five interceptions in last year’s injury-affected season. And in 2018, before the knee injury, he had five touchdowns and three picks. In the three seasons outside of 2019 in San Francisco, he has 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Meh city. Population: Jim.
He was good in 2019, no doubt. But in the playoffs, Kyle Shanahan trusted him to throw the football a total of 27 times combined in the Niners’ first two playoff wins. And when they finally needed Garoppolo to elevate in the Super Bowl, he beefed it. Badly. Jimmy went 3-for-11 for 36 yards with an interception and a fourth-down sack in the fourth quarter of that Super Bowl collapse. It was ugly.
To be sure, the Garoppolo story in New England has always been slightly … off the mark. Some people still believe he would have seamlessly taken the reins from the greatest quarterback in football history, and the Patriots wouldn’t have missed a beat.
That aspect was always overstated, as is any notion that Jimmy has been great since joining San Francisco. He’s been … good not great.
PRO: JIMMY POPS
This part’s undeniable. Jimmy’s got juice. He just does. He looks like he came straight from central casting, and when things are going well, he plays the part to perfection.
Jimmy Garoppolo was also mic’d up Sunday by NFL Films. This kid is going to be a superstar (via Inside the NFL) pic.twitter.com/y1yHuEby5q
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) December 20, 2017
While having juice doesn’t always lead to success (Cam had a lot of juice to start the season last year), there is something about Jimmy Garoppolo as the quarterback of the New England Patriots.READ MORE: Revolution Forward Adam Buksa Voted MLS Player Of The Week
And while the effect on the fan base may be mixed, it does seem safe to assume the effect on Bill Belichick will be significant. Belichick didn’t have his greatest year in 2020. He began the work for a better 2021 in free agency, and the addition of Garoppolo would surely put a little pep in Bill’s step as next season approaches.
CON: THE INJURIES. DUH.
Sometimes football players get hurt. It’s kind of an offshoot of the whole viciously violent sport thing that they’ve got going on.
Sometimes those injuries are totally random, cases of bad luck.
Other times … it’s not entirely coincidental. Some guys just manage to get injured more often than others.
That’s not a knock on anyone’s manliness or toughness or anything like that. It’s merely an acknowledgment that the human body has physical limits, and everybody is different.
For Garoppolo, you surely know the history. After getting hit outside of the pocket in September 2016, he suffered a sprained AC joint. Three games into his first full season as San Francisco’s starter in 2018, he suffered a torn ACL while stepping back into the field of play instead of going out of bounds. And last year, he suffered an ankle sprain in Week 2. He missed two and a half games with that injury, returned to play four games, reaggravated that ankle injury, and missed the rest of the year.
He could’ve started four games in 2016; he started two.
He could’ve started 16 games in 2018; he started three.
He could’ve started 16 games in 2020; he started six.
It’s a lot.
He’ll turn 30 years old in the middle of the 2021 season. Will this issue improve or worsen? Scientists can’t reach a consensus.
Regardless, there’s no doubt that the biggest knock on Garoppolo has been his inability to stay on the field.
CON: NO ROOKIE STUD
This isn’t about Jimmy so much as it is about the Patriots’ QB situation. While there’s no guarantee on any of the first-round QBs expected to fly off the board Thursday night, there’s certainly an unquantifiable excitement factor at the thought of the team drafting and developing The Next Big Thing™.
Acquiring Garoppolo instead of drafting a quarterback early in the first round of the draft would seem more like a backup plan than a top priority. Maybe that is the truth, maybe it is inaccurate. But settling for San Francisco’s discarded former wunderkind instead of identifying THE GUY® is notably less exciting.
PROS: HE’S (RELATIVELY) CHEAP
Let’s be real here. Quarterbacks cost a lot. Quarterbacks cost an insane amount. Whether that’s dollars (Dak Prescott costs $40 million per year) or draft capital (the 49ers gave up first-round picks in the next two years, plus a third-round pick, and their first-round pick this year … to be able to draft their QB this year), the cost is insane. Exorbitant.
People in New England didn’t have to deal with this reality for a long term, because while Tom Brady made plenty of moolah in Foxboro, he never had to drain every last cent out of the organization. Whether that was the ultra-wealthy wife aspect or if it just wasn’t in his personality, you can debate. But the point is, Brady never handcuffed Belichick’s ability to build a complete roster.
And even though the Niners have pretended like Jimmy is some hot commodity that every team wants, the reality is … that’s not true. Nor is it true that the Niners would be happy to keep Garoppolo in 2021, despite absolutely giving up on him, and despite owing him some $26 million this year. Not happening.
So the cost of acquiring Garoppolo figures to be low. Some have speculated it’ll cost a second-round pick. It’ll probably be even lower than that. Again, there’s not exactly a robust market here.
Obviously, there are reasons that Garoppolo comes cheap. But it wasn’t all that long ago that he was one of those QBs demanding a billion dollars. If he can maximize his situation in New England, he’ll end up being a massive value to a team that absolutely adores getting massive value.
UPDATE: The Patriots ended up getting Mac Jones, and they didn’t have to move up to do so. And so, therein lies the end of the Jimmy G. Back To NE speculation. So they got a quarterback they liked, without giving up anything extra, and without owing him enormous money. That’s likely why they waited for Thursday night’s events to play out before making any move on Garoppolo.MORE NEWS: Mac Jones Eats Steak, Spaghetti And Eggs For Breakfast On Game Days