FOXBORO, Mass. — Jimmy Garoppolo sure seemed like a popular figure in the New England Patriots’ locker room.
Since the Patriots traded Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2018 second-round draft pick, both head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels have been effusive in their praise of the 25-year-old quarterback.
“That’s the hardest part of our job,” McDaniels said Wednesday. “You spend a lot of time with a guy. All of us have a certain group of our guys in our room that we spend more time with than others — and in Jimmy’s case, the better part of four years. So you’re always sad. There’s a human element to this game that you can’t ever get away from.
“We understand the business side of it, but the human element is that you had a guy in your room that you really enjoyed being around, that you coached, that spent a lot of time learning and grasping what you were doing, and you saw him grow and get better and mature and improve through the course of time. And now he’s not here. So I wish him nothing but the best. I really, really think a lot of this guy. He’s got a bright future. He’s a great person, and I hope he does well for himself.”
Belichick on Tuesday said he has “tremendous respect” for Garoppolo before acknowledging that keeping both him and 40-year-old starting QB Tom Brady was “just not sustainable.” Garoppolo is set to hit free agency in 2018, and after sitting behind Brady for three and a half years, he wanted an opportunity to start.
“We understand that depth at a certain position is a blessing for us, but every player wants to play,” McDaniels said. “I understand that. And that’s a good thing. They should want to play. They work hard to try to earn their opportunities, and when they get them, they’ve got to make the most of them. He had a few opportunities here, and he did a good job with them, which is why he’s earned the opportunity that he has now.”
Garoppolo will back up rookie C.J. Beathard this Sunday but should become the 49ers’ starter within the next few weeks. New England, meanwhile, filled the hole on its depth chart behind Brady by signing former 49ers — and Patriots — quarterback Brian Hoyer to a three-year contract.
Thumbnail photo via Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports Images