49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo praises Tom Brady's consistency, preparation

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo praises Tom Brady's consistency, preparation

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is no stranger to championship games, but his experience this weekend will be a little bit different.

Garoppolo has led the 49ers to Sunday's NFC Championship Game, where they'll play the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium with a spot in Super Bowl LIV at stake.

The 28-year-old spent a little more than two seasons with the New England Patriots as their backup QB after they drafted him in 2014. The Patriots went to the AFC Championship Game twice in that span, and even though veteran quarterback Tom Brady played all of the snaps in those games, Garoppolo was still able to observe a few things that have helped him with the 49ers.

"I tried to see things from afar," Garoppolo said at his Wednesday press conference. "Obviously, not being on the field, it's a little different. Just the preparation that goes into it, the atmosphere in the locker room, the atmosphere in the whole building, really. I felt it, very similar to [New England], I feel it here. I'm not trying to compare the two teams, but when you get into that playoff atmosphere and it's a championship game, things get amped up. And you have to do the same."

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Garoppolo also highlighted one aspect of Brady's preparation that's made a positive impact on him.

“I haven’t personally talked to him [in the build-up to the NFC title game], but things that I took away from watching him go through it and everything, just the consistency that he had throughout the entire run,” Garoppolo said. “Whatever it was, the first playoff game, the Super Bowl -- he was very consistent between all of it, and I think that just goes into your preparation throughout the week. If you are prepared going into the game, then you’re going to play like that.”

Garoppolo and the 49ers earned a berth to the NFC Championship Game with a 27-10 victory against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round last weekend. If the 49ers win two more games, Garoppolo will not only earn his first Super Bowl ring as a starting quarterback, he'll move the 'Niners into a tie with the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most championships (six) in the Super Bowl era. 

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities,' says Matthew Slater

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities,' says Matthew Slater

Matthew Slater is the latest New England Patriots player to give a positive review of young quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

The Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and after not getting many regular season reps as a rookie, he's now the leading candidate to replace Tom Brady after the six-time Super Bowl champion left to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.

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Taking over for the greatest quarterback in NFL history will be an enormous challenge for Stidham (or whoever wins the starting job for Week 1), but Slater is optimistic about the 23-year-old's talent and mental makeup.

"He's a great kid, and I think that’s the thing that is going to matter the most with any player – who is he as a man, who is he as a person, what’s he motivated by? He’s just a great kid to be around," Slater said Monday during a media conference call. "He brings a lot of positive energy, he’s always got a smile on his face, and you can tell he’s very appreciative of the opportunity that he had last year and the opportunity that he’ll have going forward. So, certainly he has a lot of great qualities that can make him a good player at the quarterback position. Coach Belichick and his staff wouldn’t have brought him in here if they didn’t think he had those qualities.

"I think at that position, almost more than any other, it’s going to be the intangibles that get a guy to maybe a successful position. So, I think he’s got some good traits. I think he’s going to be a good player. His attack, his approach is going to have to be one day at a time, just like any of us. I think it’s important, and I’ll certainly encourage him, just to be himself – be himself, continue to be the person that he is, continue to be the teammate that he is, and we’ll just take this thing one day at a time."

Slater isn't the only Patriots player who's given a positive review of Stidham of late. Veteran safety Devin McCourty praised Stidham's poise and maturity (among other qualities) during a recent episode of his "Double Coverage" podcast and on a media conference call last week.

Stidham showed flashes of his exciting potential during last year's training camp and preseason, and now he should get the opportunity to prove he's capable of being a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. Even though this will be a brand new and difficult challenge for him, he does have some good experience to help him. Stidham played against SEC competition for two years as Auburn's starting quarterback before spending all of 2019 learning from Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Patriots fans will love Slater's mindset on the team's 2020 goals

2020 NFL Draft: Prototypical Patriots fits at safety

2020 NFL Draft: Prototypical Patriots fits at safety

We're getting into the portion of the Prototypical Patriots series where the unusual nature of this offseason — where everything that happens both draft-related and otherwise, obviously — is colored by COVID-19.

When it comes to drafted defensive backs, the Patriots have largely taken athletes who have tested very well. Athleticism matters on the back end in New England. But this year, it's harder than ever to know exactly where certain prospects fall on the athleticism spectrum.

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First, there was what happened at the combine in February. With a heavily-altered schedule for prime-time television ratings, many players opted to skip certain portions of the athletic tests. Others skipped them altogether, thinking they'd have a chance to record numbers at their pro days. Then COVID-19 wiped out those pro days.

As a result, we're dealing with less information than usual at this time of year. Still, we can try to peg Patriots fits based on their heights and weights, their college résumés and the programs from which they hail. Here are the safeties we've tabbed this offseason as "prototypes" for New England.

Click here for the gallery.