When Jimmy Garoppolo was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2014, he was expected to be the eventual successor for an aging Tom Brady. Instead, Brady kept a stranglehold on the starting job, and Garoppolo was shipped to San Francisco for a second-round draft pick.
It worked out for all parties involved. The Patriots went on to win another Super Bowl with Brady at the helm, the 49ers finally found their franchise quarterback, and Garoppolo signed a $137.5 million contract extension.
Still, when it comes to Jimmy G, it's hard not to wonder "what if?" Would the Patriots have been able to win a Super Bowl with Garoppolo under center?
"I'd probably say yes," NBC Sports' Chris Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area. "The New England Patriots, it's bigger than Tom Brady. When Tom Brady wasn't playing, they were 14-6 without him, so it's not like that team would have fell off planet Earth. In the year that Brady served his four-game suspension for Deflategate, Garoppolo was phenomenal in the first two football games. He really was. So, yes, I would say yes, and of course we see how close he got last year and all of that. But they drafted him to be the heir apparent for Tom Brady. There's no doubt about that.
"When they drafted him in the 2014 draft, in the years prior to that -- in 2011, '12, '13 -- Tom Brady was very average. They didn't draft Jimmy Garoppolo because they were like, 'Brady's still the best quarterback in football, let's draft Garoppolo just to sit on the bench for five years.' No, they drafted him because they were going, 'Damn, is this the end with Tom Brady?' And Brady really straightened out his throwing motion and a lot of issues he had in his game that people didn't notice in 2014 and kind of reinvented himself, to then they got to the point where like, 'Wait, Brady's still good here. We don't need him anymore' -- Jimmy Garoppolo, that is. And that's how he ended up in San Francisco."
Simms' point is a valid one. After all, Garoppolo did manage to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth in his first full season in San Francisco. While one could make the argument it was due to his supporting cast, that same argument could be used against Brady, as the six-time Super Bowl champion often benefited from having a stellar roster and head coach on his side.
We'll never know for sure whether Garoppolo would have shined as the Patriots' signal-caller, but it's undoubtedly an interesting question to ask.
Jimmy G will return to Foxboro on Sunday when the Patriots and 49ers face off. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m.