When it comes to NFL head coaches, it’s hard to argue with Bill Belichick’s credentials. He’s also an excellent talent evaluator, who’s unafraid of trading or releasing players when he feels the time is right. By all accounts, however, there’s one player he didn’t want to trade: Jimmy Garoppolo.
While the Garoppolo is now starting for the San Francisco 49ers, the quarterback spent his first three NFL seasons with the Patriots. But did Bill Belichick think the QB would turn out to be this good?
Jimmy Garoppolo’s college career
While Eastern Illinois might not be a nationally known college football powerhouse, Jimmy Garoppolo had quite a career with the Panthers.
Garoppolo didn’t begin his freshman year as the starting quarterback but took over the top job during the season. In eight starts, he passed for 1,639 yards with 14 and earned All-Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer Team honors. He retained the number one spot as a sophomore and racked up 2,644 passing yards and 20 touchdowns.
In 2014, however, head coach Dino Barber took over the program; he installed an explosive, no-huddle offense and gave Garoppolo the keys to the car. The quarterback thrived in the system, throwing for 3,823 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior. In his senior year, Garoppolo improved even further, piling up 5,050 passing yards and 53 touchdowns, earning the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding offensive player in the Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision. By the time he left college, he had also broken Tony Romo’s record for the most completions in Eastern Illinois history.
Joining up with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots
Based on his strong college performance, Jimmy Garoppolo entered the 2014 NFL draft as a highly-rated player. The New England Patriots selected him with the 44th overall pick and signed the quarterback to a four-year deal.
As a rookie, Garoppolo appeared in six games, throwing for 182 yards and one touchdown; he would appear in five more games during the 2015 season. During the next year, however, the young QB got a chance to show what he could do.
With Tom Brady suspended following the Deflategate scandal, Garoppolo started the 2016 campaign in the starting role. He led the Pats to victory in the first two games of the season but then was forced to the sidelines with a shoulder injury. The quarterback still showed enough to get NFL scouts and general managers talking; it was only a matter of time before Garoppolo got a starting gig.
The Patriots held onto him for the offseason but had to make a move. In October 2017, they shipped the quarterback to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick.
Did Bill Belichick know Jimmy Garoppolo would be this good?
While Jimmy Garoppolo started his time in San Francisco as the back-up, he quickly stepped in under center. The 49ers inked him to a hefty new contract in February 2018; the quarterback missed most of the season with a torn ACL but has been back at the helm for the entirety of 2019.
While the famously private Bill Belichick isn’t likely to share what he thought of Garoppolo anytime soon, it does seem like he thought the young quarterback had plenty of potential. Denise Garoppolo said that the Patriots coach “really liked” her son; Belichick even texted his former player at least five times during the 2018 season. Many suspect that he tabbed Garoppolo as Tom Brady’s eventual successor and never wanted to trade him away.
The business side of the NFL, however, got in the way; the young quarterback was bound for free agency and didn’t want to sit on the bench anymore. When push came to shove, though, everything worked out. Bill Belichick got to win another Super Bowl, and Jimmy Garoppolo got a big contract and a starting job.