How Jimmy Garoppolo won his 49ers teammates over soon after Patriots trade: 'It was sick'

How Jimmy Garoppolo won his 49ers teammates over soon after Patriots trade: 'It was sick'

MIAMI -- George Kittle was dressed as a pirate. It was the day before Halloween of his rookie season. He was going to celebrate the holiday as any 24-year-old would. Then, as any 24-year-old would, he peeked down at his phone to check on a notification.

Jimmy Garoppolo had been traded by the Patriots to Kittle's 49ers. He had a new quarterback.

"I said, 'Wow, that's really interesting.' It was cool," Kittle remembered. "Jimmy G. Two Super Bowls. Hell of a leader. It's fun to have someone like that."

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Kittle and other Niners this week remembered the deal that sent Garoppolo to San Francisco and in the process changed the course of the franchise. They couldn't have known exactly what they had then. Garoppolo had only two NFL starts to his name. But now, sitting in front of microphones in Miami in the days leading up to Super Bowl LIV, they couldn't believe their good fortune that Garoppolo landed in their laps. 

The hints that they had something in Garoppolo came early. 

"Honestly, it sounds cliche but it's real, it was at the first practice," said fullback Kyle Juszczyk. "He ran the scout team the first day. And that first period he absolutely diced our defense. You could see it in his footwork, his mechanics, the confidence that he emitted. You could see that this guy was the real deal."

For Kittle, the sign came loud and clear that his offense had a new leader. It came before Garoppolo even made his first throw from under center. 

"It was funny, his first play under center, he has a really good cadence," Kittle said, referring to the quarterback's calls at the line of scrimmage. "He has a good voice for it. Right after he said, 'Hut! Hut! Hike!' for the first time, everyone was like, 'Whoa! Nice!' It was sick."  

"Very authoritative," offensive tackle Joe Staley said of Garoppolo's line-of-scrimmage vocals. The 13-year veteran smiled and added, "He's commanding. Lets you know he's there."

It came together quickly for Garoppolo in his second professional stop. He started five games after being traded, winning all five, and completing 67.4 percent of his passes at a clip of 8.8 yards per attempt. 

He tore his ACL after three games the following season, but rediscovered his 2017 form this season. The Niners went 13-3 with Garoppolo taking the snaps. He completed 69.1 percent of his throws (fourth in the NFL), threw 27 touchdown passes (sixth), and put up an 8.4 yards per attempt figure (third). 

"I didn't really know much, actually," Staley said of Garoppolo's days in New England. "I remember the one game he had in Arizona where he started and did really, really well. But didn't know much. Didn't have much of a reaction [to the trade] either way. Knew everyone was really high on him. 

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

"Then he came in here and he really blew me away. In the huddle. All the little nuances of being a quarterback. The command that he had. His quick release. You could definitely tell that he was trained in that Patriots system as far as getting rid of the ball fast, which is awesome for an offensive lineman. He's continued to grow and develop since he's been here. It's been awesome to see him get to this point."

The Niners are back in the Super Bowl after a 4-12 record last season. Back in the Super Bowl with a chance to win one for the first time since January 1995. And thanks in part to Tom Brady continuing to play at an MVP level the season Garoppolo was dealt, thanks to the Patriots holding onto Garoppolo until midseason that year, all it cost the Niners to change everything was a second-round pick.

"I think," Juszczyk said, "we got him for a bargain."

As he retires, Dante Scarnecchia lauded for the careers he impacted with Patriots

As he retires, Dante Scarnecchia lauded for the careers he impacted with Patriots

MIAMI -- No matter which player you ask, regardless of position, the respect with which Patriots players speak about Dante Scarnecchia is ubiquitous. 

In the wake of the news that the legendary assistant coach will retire, one player made it clear: There will never be another "Scar."

"It's part of this business," the player said. "Coaches change. Players change every year. It's just something you have to deal with. It is what it is. There'll never be another Dante Scarnecchia. The next coach doesn't need to be Dante Scarnecchia, they need to be themselves."

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

The Patriots have a couple of in-house candidates to fill Scarnecchia's offensive line coach shoes in coaching assistant's Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo. Popovich has assisted Scarnecchia in previous seasons, but it was Bricillo who took on those duties in 2019. Bricillo joined the team prior to the start of last season. 

Bricillo spent the previous nine seasons coaching offensive linemen at Youngstown State. Popovich has been with the Patriots for four seasons and served as assistant running backs coach in 2019. 

No matter who is the "next man up," as goes one of the team's mottoes, Scarnecchia has been irreplaceable for the Patriots. 

"I think he's done so much for the game he deserves some credit," the Patriots player said. "Number one, I think he was a great coach. His record, his career, his history, the success of the teams, lines, players under his [guidance] speak for himself. More importantly, I think he cared about each one of his players on a personal level. That made a player want to buy in. 

"Two, I think he was just a great ambassador of the game. I think being able to talk to him and hear him and get to play for him, he loves the game more than anything and is an ambassador."

Scarnecchia has long been a hard-driving coach on the practice field. He's meticulous about the way in which his players carry the blocking pads in drills. After practices, he wanted his players to place their helmets in a perfectly straight line on the turf during cool-down stretching periods. 

There were rules to adhere to, standards to uphold. If they weren't, Scarnecchia wasn't above raising his voice to a decibel level that could be heard by most training camp attendees at open summer practices. 

Players tried to do things Scarnecchia's way. They tried to live The Gospel of Scar. They tried because they valued their jobs. But they also tried because they wanted to make Scarnecchia happy. He showed them that he cared for them, and they tried to pay him back with their effort. 

"I think people forget at the end of the day, we're people," the Patriots player said. "There's a personal aspect to this game. You're not just collecting a paycheck every week. There's a personal aspect to it, there's more to it why we all play. 

"We all believed in him. We believed what he was telling us was for our benefit. He wanted the team to succeed, but he [wanted his players to succeed] when someone's putting that much time and effort into it." 

Scarnecchia's compiled what could be considered a Hall of Fame resume over his five decades of coaching. He won five Super Bowls in New England. He helped Nate Solder and Trent Brown pull in record contracts as free agents. He helped tutor Stephen Neal, turning him from a college wrestler into a Super Bowl champion. 

"You can't take away from what the athletes went out there and did at the end of the day, under his teaching and his leadership," the Patriots player said. "Players were able to develop themselves and make a career for themselves. A lot of that credit does go to [Scarnecchia]. Getting them to buy in and believe not only in him but in themselves, teaching them the right way of doing things."

Texans' moves with Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby likely close door on Patriots' Nick Caserio to Houston

Texans' moves with Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby likely close door on Patriots' Nick Caserio to Houston

It appears the Houston Texans pursuit of Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, which led to New England filing tampering charges against Houston last offseason, is over.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

The Texans have promoted coach Bill O'Brien to general manager and Jack Easterby, the former character coach with the Patriots, has been given the title of executive vice president of football operations.

The Texans operated without an official GM last season after they sought Caserio for the vacant position. The Patriots reportedly used photos and video of Easterby, who had been the Patriots character coach for six seasons, interacting with Caserio at the Super Bowl ring ceremony in June, as evidence of tampering.

The tampering charges were dropped a few days later after Houston withdrew its pursuit of Caserio, New England's director of player personnel since 2008, whose contract is up after the 2020 NFL Draft.