New England owner Robert Kraft demanded coach Bill Belichick trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a meeting that lasted half the day, just two weeks before the NFL trade deadline, according to an explosive behind-the-scenes report from ESPN.
Garoppolo was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. And Garoppolo and his agent, Don Yee, had repeatedly rejected Patriots offers to retain Garoppolo on a four-year contract extension worth “in the $17 million to $18 million range annually,” reported ESPN’s Seth Wickersham. The Patriots sent Garoppolo to the 49ers because Belichick believed Garoppolo would thrive under 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, according to the report.
The Patriots could not guarantee a time when Garoppolo would take over as the team’s starting quarterback. Quarterback Tom Brady, who turns 41 in August, has stated he expects to play until he’s 45 years old. He has a close relationship with Kraft.
Belichick was “furious and demoralized” that he was ordered to trade Garoppolo, according to the report, citing friends. On the morning of Oct. 30, he sent a text message to Shanahan asking him to call him back. Belichick asked for a second-round draft pick in exchange for Garoppolo.
General manager John Lynch and Shanahan have said it did not take the 49ers long to get on the same page and accept the trade. But the 49ers have been careful not to talk about the details of how the deal fell into place.
“I do want to thank the New England Patriots,” Lynch said on Oct. 31, shortly after Garoppolo arrived in Santa Clara. “I think it's refreshing to find people where you cannot belabor things. You bring something up and you come to a quick resolution and you don't grind people out. That's what we were able to do. So, I want to thank them, and I have a lot of respect for that organization.
“In talking with the Patriots, one of the things, we're not going to get into a ton of details.”
Even as late as Tuesday, Lynch was evasive when asked whether her has spoken to Belichick during Garoppolo’s run of success as a starter.
“We don’t talk about that,” Lynch said with a smile. “We’re onto the offseason.”
According to the report, Belichick has taken pride in the fact Garoppolo played well and led the 49ers to a 5-0 record as the starter. And Brady was described as the winner of the whole struggle, one Patriots staffer told ESPN, because the team’s new backup, former 49ers starter Brian Hoyer, is not a threat and the owner of the team sided with Brady and his plan to play for years to come.
The report states that Brady is “famously unhelpful” to the quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart, especially those he considers a threat. Garoppolo was a threat.
Garoppolo started the first two games of the 2016 season while Brady was serving a four-game suspension for his role in the scandal to deflate footballs below NFL requirements.
In the second game, Garoppolo sustained a shoulder injury and sought treatment at TB12 Sports Therapy Center, which is run by Alex Guerrero, Brady’s trainer and business partner.
But, according to the report, when Garoppolo showed up for his appointment, the doors were locked and none of the TB12 trainers he called answered their phones. Garoppolo went to the team’s athletic trainers instead. Guerrero denied to ESPN that he ever refused to see any player. But according to the report it was two weeks later that Garoppolo was treated at TB12, and that came only after a “high-ranking” member of the Patriots called to ask why Garoppolo had not been treated.
So why did Belichick deliver Garoppolo to the 49ers? Belichick admires Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Denver Broncos.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, just weeks after Shanahan played a role as the offensive coordinator in the Atlanta Falcons’ meltdown loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, he met “for hours” with Belichick to learn from the loss, according to the report.
It has previously been reported that the 49ers asked Belichick about the availability of Garoppolo in a trade as far back as during that time in February. At that point, Belichick told the 49ers that he was not interested in trading Garoppolo.
The Patriots issued the following statement on Friday morning.
Joint statement from Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady: pic.twitter.com/i555gWZIi6— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 5, 2018