PATS INSIDER

Curran: The only fitting ending? Jimmy G. back with the Patriots

PATS INSIDER

Nobody gets more votes of confidence than Jimmy Garoppolo. Do you know why? Because Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t inspire confidence.

The latest episode of “We Believe in Jimmy G, I Swear We Do” came Wednesday when Niners GM John Lynch was asked if he had any doubt Jimmy G. would be the Niners Week 1 starter come September.

“No, not at all,” Lynch replied. “I really believe that.”

Patriots Talk Podcast: Why Jimmy G. returning to the Patriots makes sense, plus 1-on-1 with David Andrews | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

You know what kills me about that answer? The “I really believe that” portion. Lynch KNOWS people don’t believe he believes that. As a result, he actually has to emphasize he’s not lying.

The reason people keep asking about Garoppolo’s future is simple. Jimmy G. may be the worst quarterback value in the NFL.

Since signing his contract extension in 2018, Garoppolo’s consumed $83.6M in cap space and played just 25 regular season games. That works out to $3.34M per game? PER GAME?! Prorated, that’s almost $50M prorated against the cap. This isn’t an unfair snapshot. It’s three damn seasons.

 

Why would San Fran sign up for another year of injuries and missed games with a quarterback that’s got a $26.4M cap hit? And why, when they have a contractual trap door available to them where they can save $23.6M on their cap this season, would they think, “This year will be different?"

Why would they want another year with a quarterback who -- even though he brought them to the brink of a title -- still causes them to ooze an, “I’m just not that into you ...” vibe?

Glass Garoppolo

Percentage of regular-season games played since 2018
52.1%

Glass Jim isn’t turning into Nerf Jim. He’s brittle and always has been. You’ll recall he was needed to play four games in place of suspended Tom Brady at the start of 2016. He made it five quarters before getting hurt.

Aside from finances and breakability is the feeling head coach Kyle Shanahan just doesn’t trust Garoppolo to do the right thing often enough.

It’s very well documented that Jimmy makes Shanahan’s palms sweat.

And this terrific article lays out very well the measurables that prove it, highlighting in particular Garoppolo’s limitations in throwing with accuracy and frequency downfield or under duress.

The Niners and Shanahan are eloquent in their public defense of Garoppolo as a capable player. They should be. Talent-wise, you could do a lot worse.

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But Shanahan’s eye still wanders. Last offseason, Tom Brady caught it. My understanding is Shanahan was the person most interested in adding Brady, but the proposition became too hard to envision for the rest of the Niners brass. They said no for the same reason the Patriots wanted to move on. Brady was too old.

Besides, the Niners had Garoppolo, who’d just gotten them to the Super Bowl.

That Brady’s 2020 season ended with him winning his seventh Super Bowl while Garoppolo’s ended before Veteran’s Day only underscores why these votes of confidence are necessary.

Do the Niners really want to try and run it back again? At that price?

Earlier this week, Albert Breer posited that the Niners wouldn’t move on from Garoppolo unless they could find a significant upgrade for him. I believe Breer. And I believe the Niners would nod their heads in agreement. An “in for a dime, in for a dollar…” mentality has seeped in by now.

“Being available is a big part of this thing,” Lynch acknowledged Wednesday. “So we -- probably as a stated goal -- we have to insulate ourselves better. We’ve got to have better options if he’s not there.

 

“I’ve watched people go through this in their careers where they struggled early (with injuries) … So I believe things can happen, and I believe they will for him. I really believe that Jimmy is our guy.”

Still tepid in my opinion. And that’s because one thing needs factoring in: where does “value” enter into the discussion of establishing Jimmy’s worth relative to another player?

Is Garoppolo -- who’s averaged eight games per season since signing his new deal -- worth $3M per game? Or would Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard or Kyle Allen or a Taylor Heinicke-level quarterback who’d play more games for a fraction of the cost represent an upgrade?

Think of the players a team like the Niners could add with the money they’d save by moving on from Garoppolo who is set to make $50M in salary the next two years and -- again -- may only play 16 games in that span.

It’s unlikely the Niners would take the bold, Belichickian step of jettisoning Jimmy in favor of Mullens, for instance. But there has to be some price or scenario by which they would cut their losses.

What is it? And could the Patriots find it?

Next Pats Podcast - Jim Nagy makes a compelling argument for why Mac Jones would excel with Patriots  | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

On one hand, it would be so appropriate in the Shakespearean arc of the Patriots. The exiled prince returns to help his aging father who was left wounded by the prince’s older brother who himself has moved on to establish a new kingdom.

On the other hand? Damn, Bill, can you be any less imaginative?

Since trading Jimmy on Halloween of 2017, the team has been practically paralyzed at the position. They drafted Danny Etling in the seventh round of 2018 and Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round in 2019. Nobody last year. They overestimated Brady‘s willingness to eat poop so he didn’t have to uproot.

They overestimated Stidham’s ability. They had no place to sit when the music stopped last summer and actually got lucky to have Cam Newton available to them. And if they bring back Garoppolo, they are going to wade into the same value conundrum the Niners are facing. But it will be never said Bill Belichick lacks confidence he can do it better than someone else.

Does Belichick’s fire still burn as bright for Garoppolo? That’s an interesting question. The Patriots still believe they authored the perfect succession plan for Brady and Garoppolo was their answer. Brady’s performance through 2016 and early in his MVP season in 2017 -- not Robert Kraft’s intervention -- blew that plan up.

 

Is Jimmy still who they thought he was? Belichick’s public statements indicate he is. And Garoppolo’s performance in the Niners beatdown of the Patriots would further that belief.

Would the Patriots be OK with paying Garoppolo’s freight if they were to swing a deal for him? Would Lynch and Shanahan feel at all indebted to Belichick for sending them Garoppolo for the low, low price of a second-round pick back in 2018 and make it easy for New England to bring him back?

Would Garoppolo, who has a no-trade clause, even approve a deal to New England given the state of the roster? Would Garoppolo’s agent, Don Yee -- who also represents Brady -- make it clear to Garoppolo that Belichick’s patience level for a promising, lowly-paid backup is a lot different than it would be for a 30-year-old making $25M?

Would Garoppolo want the pressure of trying to replace Brady now? I think he would. Consider this, since the two were teammates, Brady has played in three Super Bowls and won two. Jimmy’s played in one and came real close to winning it. He’s not thinking he’s injury-prone, limited or less-than. He has something to prove.

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So, at the moment, does Belichick. Brady put the Patriots on the canvas in 2020. They underestimated how good he’d be at 43. He showed them.

They should be embarrassed they made the same mistake with the player that Lloyd Carr did at Michigan from 1995 to 1999 and every team in the NFL did for six rounds in April of 2000.

What better way to even the score with Brady than with Garoppolo? It’s too perfect. Even if it means paying him what they refused to pay Brady, this would be the ultimate “have your cake and eat it too” scenario. Trade Jimmy. Win one more with Brady. Get Jimmy back. Try and win another with him.

Of all the 2021 quarterback scenarios we’ve served up this offseason, none would be more delicious than a Garoppolo return. And the Bucs visit Foxboro this fall? The commissioner should make himself useful for once and force San Fran to trade Garoppolo back here.

I really believe that.