Jimmy Garoppolo returns to New England this weekend. Could he be returning to Foxboro on a permanent basis sooner than later?
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback will make his first appearance at Gillette Stadium since the Patriots traded him to the Bay Area on Halloween in 2017.
Despite Garoppolo’s success filling in for Brady in 2016, New England undoubtedly made the right decision to trade the second-round pick in 2017. The Patriots still had Tom Brady, who would go on to win another Super Bowl while playing largely at an All-Pro level. Now, however, Brady is in Tampa Bay, and it’s unclear whether New England has a future QB on its roster. Cam Newton has been good-not-great in what might just be a one-year stay, and there are legitimate questions about Jarrett Stidham’s potential as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Scott Zolak, the Patriots radio analyst who also does a midday show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, said Thursday he’s starting to believe Garoppolo will be under center for the Patriots in 2021.
“Look at the stuff down in Miami with Ryan Fitzpatrick. So much of this specific position is based on timing,” Zolak said Thursday on the midday show. “For me, the way this season is starting to play and the way things have played out for (Garoppolo) … they haven’t developed him as a downfield passer. What’s that big delay? Like, what are you afraid of?”
To Zolak’s point, the 49ers — who reportedly had “reservations” about Garoppolo after the Super Bowl loss — flirted with the idea of bringing in Brady during the offseason. Ultimately, they decided against that, but that certainly isn’t a strong commitment to the man they signed to a five-year contract extension prior to the 2018 season. But even the way that deal was constructed — with a large portion of the money up front — could allow San Fran to move on.
“If you’re afraid and you don’t think he can be your guy, you’re gonna be open to taking calls,” Zolak continued. ” … Guys are going to be available at the end of this year, based on how this year is going. The quarterback market can be a carousel. If you’re hunting — which I think the Patriots will be in the hunt for a quarterback, with just the way this thing is trending because it’s not looking too good — that’s the guy they wanted. Timing wasn’t right. They made the right decision keeping Brady.
” … I think the timing of that reacquaintance, that ex-lover coming back could be perfect for them, and it’s starting to play out for me. I just see it coming. Zostradamus.”
Zolak, of course, is very tied into the Patriots.
Circling back to Garoppolo wouldn’t be surprising at all for the Patriots. There were reports about the Patriots’ potential interest in the QB when the Brady-to-San Fran rumors started to percolate.
Meanwhile, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has made his adoration for Garoppolo no secret. He was effusive with praise for Garoppolo after trading him to San Francisco, and he definitely did the signal-caller a favor by trading him to an up-and-coming organization like the 49ers. That Garoppolo had so much early success with the Niners likely was little surprise to Belichick.
And he’s not alone.
“There are a lot of people beside the head coach in that organization (the Patriots) that like him,” Zolak said.
Since his early days as a Niner, though, Garoppolo has struggled at times. A major knee injury derailed his early progress, and while he hasn’t been bad, the questions about his status as a franchise quarterback are fair. Ultimately, that could leave San Francisco with a difficult decision to make.
And if Zolak is onto something, we probably should expect the Patriots to pounce and bring back Garoppolo with the hopes of him becoming the true successor to Brady — just a few years later than expected.