At least for one week, Jimmy Garoppolo quieted the critics by leading the 49ers to a 24-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
But Garoppolo's future as the 49ers' quarterback has been in question ever since his poor performance in Super Bowl LIV in February. The team pursued Tom Brady during free agency before deciding to stick with Garoppolo.
Garoppolo's poor play this season, combined with a high ankle sprain sustained in Week 2 that kept him out two weeks and the solid performance by Nick Mullens reignited the speculation that his days in Santa Clara are numbered. That, however, has quieted down a bit after Mullens was benched in a Week 4 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
If the 49ers decide to move on from Garoppolo after this season, there's a logical landing spot for him, according to Patriots radio analyst Scott Zolak: The New England Patriots.
“Look at the stuff down in Miami with Ryan Fitzpatrick. So much of this specific position is based on timing,” Zolak said Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub (H/T NESN.com). “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?”
“If you’re afraid and you don’t think he can be your guy, you’re gonna be open to taking calls. ... 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."
The Patriots decided in 2017 that they couldn't pay Garoppolo and Brady, so they traded the younger quarterback to the 49ers for a 2018 second-round draft pick.
Now, with Brady a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cam Newton playing on a one-year contract, the Patriots could be looking for a quarterback in the offseason.
And Zolak believes everything is setting up for a reunion between Garoppolo and the Patriots.
”I think the timing of that reacquaintance, that ex-lover coming back could be perfect for them," Zolak said. "And it’s starting to play out for me. I just see it coming. Zostradamus.”
A lot will depend on how the season plays out for the 49ers. If Garoppolo manages to lead the 49ers back to the Super Bowl and they emerge victorious this time, it's doubtful Garoppolo goes anywhere.
But if the 49ers struggle over the final 10 games of the season and they barely make the playoffs or miss them altogether, the decision to cut ties with Garoppolo might be an easy one.
And if Garoppolo hits the free agent market, you can bet the Patriots coach Bill Belichick will be at the front of the line waiting to talk to the quarterback.