Patriots

Patriots

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The San Francisco 49ers with Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area.

The San Francisco 49ers didn't give up much to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots via trade in 2017, and over two-plus seasons in the Bay Area, the 28-year-old quarterback has improved his career record as a starter to an impressive 21-5.

Despite Garoppolo's success over the last few years, there was plenty of speculation this offseason that the 49ers could make a change at the quarterback position. One player in the rumor mill was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was set to hit free agency for the first time in his career. Brady would eventually sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but 49ers general manager John Lynch did admit in April that San Francisco had "internal discussions" about pursuing the six-time Super Bowl champion.

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NBC Sports Bay Area's 49ers insider Matt Maiocco recently spoke to our own Patriots insider Phil Perry about the 49ers' quarterback discussions this offseason.

 

"I think if Tom Brady makes it known that he wants to play for your franchise, wouldn't it be NFL malpractice not to see if the pieces fit?" Maiocco said. "So when the 49ers got word of that, John Lynch and (head coach) Kyle Shanahan talked about it, and they said it only took a day or two to sift through everything and figure out that the answer, in their minds, was already in the building. It maybe reinforced in their belief that Jimmy Garoppolo is the right guy.

"And another thing, too, Tom Brady being a Bay Area guy, I don't think the 49ers wanted to come out and say right from the beginning, 'We're not interested in Tom Brady, we're sticking with Garoppolo.' As long as they let Garoppolo know what their thought process was, they were fine, and they did that every step of the way with him."

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Garoppolo took the 49ers to the Super Bowl last season, which was a great accomplishment, but his play late in that game did nothing to quiet his critics. He completed only three of 11 pass attempts for 36 yards with an interception and a fourth-down sack in the fourth quarter. The Kansas City Chiefs took advantage and outscored the 49ers 21-0 in the final quarter to earn a 31-20 win.

After coming so close to winning the Lombardi Trophy, the expectations for both Garoppolo and the 49ers will be even higher in 2020.

"I think with Garoppolo, the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan like a lot of elements of his play -- the quick release, the kind of sneaky athleticism," Maiocco said. "When they got him, he was basically a blank canvas. He hadn't played much in the NFL, so they were able to form him the way they wanted. Shanahan is tough on quarterbacks, and his desired quarterback when he took this job was Kirk Cousins, and then Garoppolo basically fell in his lap and he was a very quality quarterback. He was a guy they studied during the 2017 offseason.

"I think the one thing that's kind of overlooked in this is that Garoppolo had a good year last year -- his first year as a starter, 16 games. He played very well. He gave the best quarterback year for a 49ers player in a quarter century, seriously, 25 years since a quarterback for the 49ers posted those kinds of numbers. I think they see the 2019 season as kind of being the floor for what Garoppolo can be. Now, he's got to cut down on the mistakes, the turnovers, but there's a lot of good things that he did last season for the 49ers."

The 49ers figure to be among the top Super Bowl contenders again next season. Losing offensive lineman Joe Staley and defensive star DeForest Buckner hurts, but the 49ers did trade for Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams to upgrade their o-line, and they selected talented South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the No. 14 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (acquired in the Buckner trade).

 

The NFC is loaded with stellar teams, though, so if the the 49ers are going to return to the Super Bowl, Garoppolo must raise his performance and break into the tier of top 10 quarterbacks.