Sure, the Patriots still think very highly of Garoppolo, who will return to New England on Sunday for a Week 7 showdown, and Tom Brady since has left the organization, signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency this past offseason. But the Patriots made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in wake of Garoppolo’s departure, winning football’s ultimate prize at the conclusion of the 2018 campaign.
Still, it’s fair to wonder what would have happened had the Patriots not traded Garoppolo and instead handed him the keys to New England’s offense at some point. After all, Garoppolo stepped in for a suspended Brady and thrived in two starts with the Patriots in 2016, another season that ended with New England hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Chris Simms, a former NFL quarterback now working as an analyst for NBC Sports, believes the Patriots would have won a Super Bowl with Garoppolo as their starting quarterback.
“I’d probably say yes,” Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area. “The New England Patriots, it’s bigger than Tom Brady. When Tom Brady wasn’t playing, they were 14-6 without him, so it’s not like that team would have fell off planet Earth. In the year that Brady served his four-game suspension for Deflategate, Garoppolo was phenomenal in the first two football games. He really was. So, yes, I would say yes, and of course we see how close he got last year (with San Francisco) and all of that.”
So, why did the Patriots, who selected Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, trade away the young signal-caller? Well, because his emergence coincided with a career renaissance for Brady. And there simply was no way New England was going to opt for Jimmy G over TB12, even if it’s a thought that might have crossed Bill Belichick’s mind.
“When they drafted him in the 2014 draft, in the years prior to that — in 2011, ’12, ’13 — Tom Brady was very average,” Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area. “They didn’t draft Jimmy Garoppolo because they were like, ‘Brady’s still the best quarterback in football, let’s draft Garoppolo just to sit on the bench for five years.’ No, they drafted him because they were going, ‘Damn, is this the end with Tom Brady?’ “
Overall, everything worked out well for the Patriots — now quarterbacked by Cam Newton — and Garoppolo, who signed a lucrative contract with the 49ers after arriving in San Francisco. The Niners probably aren’t complaining too much, either, seeing as they advanced to the Super Bowl last season, ultimately losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.
And who knows? Life’s funny, sometimes. Maybe Garoppolo will wind up back in Foxboro someday as a member of the Patriots.