The New England Patriots held onto Jimmy Garoppolo for as long as they possibly could while still controlling where he would go: at the 2017 trade deadline, five months before Tom Brady’s backup quarterback was scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency, the Patriots moved him to the San Francisco 49ers in return for a second-round draft pick the following spring. Two years after the trade, Garoppolo will compete for the Super Bowl.
The game’s biggest stage is nothing new for the 28-year-old, who helped prepare the Patriots for two title game performances during his three-and-half seasons with the club. The main difference between Super Bowl 54 and the 49th and 51st editions of the game from his perspective, of course, is that he is now entering the game as a starting quarterback and a focal point in the 49ers’s offensive attack — at least on paper.
After all, his role has been anything but big during the team’s first two playoff games. While Garoppolo did attempt 19 passes in the divisional round against the Minnesota Vikings, he only dropped back to pass nine times in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers. Of course, the approach worked well for the 49ers as they won the two games rather easily while relying primarily on a strong defense and productive running game.
Garoppolo, meanwhile, played his role and San Francisco general manager John Lynch sounded appreciative of his quarterback when talking about him during Super Bowl 54 Opening Night on Monday: “I’ve got a sense of gratitude for Jimmy. I think things happen, and we were able to work out a deal. Jimmy, he made us better as an organization instantly. He’s a winner. I think a lot of that is just inherent in who he is.”
“I think the Patriot Way helped shape that as well,” Lynch added. “He had great experiences there. That’s all he cares about is winning. A great example last week, we throw the ball eight times in the NFC Championship, and he’s up on the podium saying, ‘How cool is that? We just threw the ball eight times and won the NFC Championship.’ So, all he cares about is winning. He’s a tremendous talent, a tremendous person. We’re fortunate to have him.”
Lynch is no stranger when it comes to the so-called Patriot Way and its team-first approach to playing football: not only did he acquire Garoppolo via trade from the architect himself, Bill Belichick, he also spent his final days as an active NFL player with the organization when he joined it for two weeks in the summer of 2008. The quarterback he brought in from New England, meanwhile, has helped bring some of that same mentality to the Bay Area.
“It was a big step in our ascension as an organization. We knew it was kind our stated goal was we have to find that quarterback and then find the guys to knock them down. He was a big piece of that. That was big for us,” Lynch said about the former second-round draft selection who went on to not just sign the biggest deal in NFL history after his first half season as a member of the 49ers, but also to lead the team to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots, who recognized Garoppolo’s potential and turned him into a valuable commodity, played a role in all that as Lynch pointed out.