Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was not going to remain with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots beyond a fourth year.
So after 3 1/2 seasons, Belichick made the move to trade the team's backup quarterback rather than lose him in free agency in the spring of 2018. Belichick identified the 49ers as the team with which he wanted to do business.
"Everybody here had a lot of confidence in him," Belichick said Monday of Garoppolo in a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
"It’s one of those situations where you’re not able to keep all the players, based on the situation that’s set up, which is understandable. I’m glad that it’s worked out for him and San Francisco. I hope it doesn’t work out on Sunday."
Garoppolo and the 49ers will travel to face the Patriots on Sunday in a Week 7 game. It will be Garoppolo's first game against his former team -- and Belichick's first game against his former player.
"(I'm) happy he has the opportunity to play for a great coach and a great organization and play on a great team," Belichick said. "I think he deserves that. He certainly worked hard and earned it, and (I’m) happy for him and his family."
Much of the motivation for Belichick to hand-pick the 49ers for a Garoppolo trade is unknown. And Belichick did not shed much light on his decision-making process of nearly three years ago when speaking with the Bay Area media.
General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have described what occurred as a fast-moving take-it-or-leave it proposal from Belichick on the eve of the 2017 NFL trading deadline.
Shanahan received a call from Belichick while he was heading into work. Belichick offered Garoppolo to the 49ers in a trade. He asked for only second-round 2018 draft pick in return.
Shanahan and Lynch talked it over for less than 10 minutes and decided to act. A day later, Garoppolo arrived at the 49ers’ team headquarters in Santa Clara in a black Chevy Suburban.
Belichick noted the Patriots have traded with a lot of teams in the NFL, so he dismissed the notion that he made the deal with the 49ers because of his good relationships with Lynch and Shanahan. But there was a sense Belichick trusted Lynch and Shanahan to give Garoppolo the best chance at success -- while also being situated safely in the NFC.
"Kyle's got a great offensive mind," Belichick said. "He really knows how to attack and stress a defense and put the defense in a lot of compromising positions with his formationing and play-calling and, most importantly, a high level of execution that his teams have always shown, running the ball, throwing the ball, playing situational football."
The Patriots would have been unable to re-sign Garoppolo as a free agent while also paying Tom Brady to remain as the quarterback through the 2019 season, when Brady's contract would expire.
The Patriots selected Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft with the No. 62 overall selection. Belichick said they were drawn to him during the evaluating process due to his "personal characteristics, his intelligence, his toughness, his work ethic, his playing skill."
Garoppolo played at Eastern Illinois, and Belichick said he knew they would have to spend a lot of time to develop him for the rise in level to the NFL.
"We thought he'd need some development," Belichick said. "And I think he did, but he worked very hard. He worked very hard to improve, particularly playing under center, dropping back under center, his mechanics and turning his back on defense and things like that, that you don't do when you're in the shotgun (formation) all the time like he basically was in college.
"Obviously, reading coverages and seeing things at this level that are a lot different than (college). But he handled that well and showed a lot of toughness and leadership in the opportunities he got to play for us."
He started two games at the beginning of the 2016 season and played well when Brady served a suspension to open the season. He threw for 496 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a season-opening wins against Arizona and Miami.