New England Patriots fans were shocked when Bill Belichick traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for the modest price of a second-round draft pick.
So, too, were the 49ers.
In a lengthy feature on Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch published Wednesday, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham described the sentiments inside the San Francisco facility when Belichick extended that trade offer to Shanahan midway through the 2017 season — after telling everyone that Garoppolo, Tom Brady’s promising young backup, was not for sale.
“Then the 49ers got what every successful team needs: luck, in two ways. The first instance occurred just before the trading deadline in 2017, when Belichick texted Shanahan, a coach whom he respected enormously, and offered Jimmy Garoppolo straight up for a second-round pick. The 49ers were stunned — Belichick had told staff in the Patriots building and any team that had inquired that the quarterback would not be traded — and were prepared to counter with a larger package, in case Belichick happened to be posturing. He wasn’t.”
Most of the information in that passage had been previously reported — Lynch himself has discussed how surprised he was to land Garoppolo when he did — but that final line is noteworthy. The Niners were willing to part with more than a second-round pick to close the deal if necessary, but Belichick never pressed the issue.
While most agree that trading Garoppolo when the Patriots did was the correct call — Brady was the NFL MVP in 2017 and led New England to a Super Bowl title the following season — the return still seems insufficient for a player who’s now won 23 of his first 28 NFL starts, including the postseason.
The 49ers attempted the fourth-fewest passes in the NFL this season, but Garoppolo was an efficient thrower, ranking third in yards per attempt and eighth in passer rating. He’s needed to do little during his first playoff run as a starter, attempting just 27 total passes in wins over the Minnesota Vikings (19) and Green Bay Packers (eight) as the Niners rode a punishing run game and ferocious defense to Super Bowl LIV.