San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo or Jarrett Stidham: Who would you prefer as Tom Brady's heir apparent?

Jimmy Garoppolo or Jarrett Stidham: Who would you prefer as Tom Brady's heir apparent?

I get why we're having this conversation today, but if Jimmy G. had gone 5 for 7 for 48 yards instead of throwing up down the front of his shirt on Monday night, we wouldn't be.

The guy threw picks on five straight passes during practice last week. But that wasn't nationally televised, so citizens of Kneejerk Nation didn't get to engage in open competition for the most extreme take.

The way I feel about Jimmy G. as it relates to Jarrett Stidham? Same as I felt eight days ago, eight months ago, 18 months ago. Bill Belichick dodged a bullet when he left a swaddled Jimmy G. on the 49ers front porch, rang the doorbell and ran.

The Patriots may not have had to hand Garoppolo the insane five-year, $137M contract with $74.1M guaranteed that San Fran did, but they would have been asked to pay elite starter money for a guy who gets hurt too often.

Jimmy didn't even make it six quarters in 2016 before he got knocked out of his big audition.

To me, Garoppolo and Stidham are two sides of the same coin. Accurate throwers with great touch and velocity who are on the small side and need to learn to not scoot around asking to be roadkill. They are promising leaders but — as it is with players who are confident in their physical skills — they want to push the envelope. Even Brady did that in 2002. But Brady had the mental toughness to withstand bad performances. Beyond that, he was never anointed the way Garoppolo was until 2006.

Garoppolo is dealing with a pressure to be Magic Jimmy and justify a contract. Everybody's counting on him — ownership, GM, head coach, teammates — to restore Niner Pride. And he's got to muffle rising terror that he's not who everyone thought he was while coming back from an ACL.

Stidham is where Jimmy was. Enjoying low expectations with the ability to play free-and-easy against the dregs of other teams' rosters. He will be Belichick's shiny, new thing and there's a chance the coaches can curb Stidham's skittishness and make the game slow down for him.

Did the Patriots make the right decision shipping Garoppolo out? Who could possibly ask that with a straight face? Tom Brady was better in 2017 and 2018. He will quite likely be better in 2019. The only Super Bowl the Patriots lost in the past three seasons was because of game-day roster decisions on defense, not Brady.

The Patriots got to hit reset at the backup spot and they didn't miss out on a thing.

Yes, but wait . . . one . . . second! Before we get into Garoppolo versus Stidham, the reason Belichick's a) initial disinterest in trading Garoppolo and b) his quick-ship of Garoppolo to San Francisco were so interesting was because it was about the long-term future.

It wasn't about 2017 or 2018. It was about the idea of possibly having a legitimate franchise quarterback in 2023. It was about the unthinkable: Sustaining a run unlike any in the history of the league, and doing it by sacrificing a few years with Brady for a longer runway with Garoppolo.

We know how that went. Garoppolo wasn't going to re-sign here to continue to sit and wait. The Patriots weren't going to trade Brady. The Patriots went to two Super Bowls and won one. Garoppolo hasn't done squat. But the fact that Belichick was so reluctant to part ways with Garoppolo cuts at the core of what he wants for his legacy.

"I remember Bill's admiration for Coach [Bill] Walsh (the legendary 49ers coach),” Scott Pioli told you recently. “(Belichick) said, 'At some point, I want to create something that is truly great, and the measure of true greatness is something that lasts. It's not just winning a championship. It's something that lasts and lives beyond you.' "

So let's turn to the young quarterbacks we're discussing today. Who would have the better chance of helping Belichick "create something that is truly great . . . something that lasts"?

First, some logistics.

For Garoppolo to get back here, he'd need to be released by the Niners, and the Patriots would have to re-sign him. I believe it's highly unlikely San Francisco would do that because teams generally don't part with players they believe have the potential to be franchise quarterbacks. Plus, if Garoppolo has a brutal year, it'll be chalked up as the norm for a guy coming back off of injury and playing behind a brutal offensive line. (That unit didn't help him in his abysmal preseason performance the other night.) San Francisco will convince itself that he's still their guy, I think, no matter what.

There is, however, an out in Garoppolo's contract after this season. The Niners could release him and have only $4.2 million in dead cap on their books.

For argument's sake, let's say that happens. And let's say the Patriots would have to re-sign Garoppolo for two years and $36 million to get him back in-house. (That's what Sam Bradford — once thought of as a franchise guy, someone whose stock was pummeled by injury — got in 2016 from the Eagles.)

If Brady was still in New England, re-signed for 2020 after a good 2019, then the numbers would be tough to crunch. Garoppolo's deal would have to be back-loaded for 2021 so that the Patriots weren't dumping close to $40 million into the quarterback position for 2020. Then the what-about-Brady question would loom the following year.

The financial reality of a Garoppolo return makes it hard to fathom. And it'd make Stidham, who's shown promise in ways Garoppolo did as a rookie, the better option.

But if money was no object, or if the dynamics with Brady weren't part of the equation — maybe he decides to go elsewhere? — I'd go with Garoppolo.

The reason why is as simple as this: We've seen him have success at the NFL level. It was only a couple of games in New England. And he did get hurt. But . . . we've seen him do it.

We then saw Garoppolo do some remarkable things for a brief period before he was hurt in San Francisco. Those are on the record. They happened. We've seen it.

Garoppolo's ability to stay healthy would concern me. His ability to handle pressure as "the guy" would concern me. 

But for as little as we've seen from him, we have far less than that with Stidham. Stidham's impressive moments have been against backups. They've come against vanilla schemes.

That's why, given the option between the two, I'd still have to go with Garoppolo. Warts and all.

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Breakfast Pod: Biggest Boston sports moments of the past decade

Breakfast Pod: Biggest Boston sports moments of the past decade

With 98.5 The Sports Hub celebrating its 10th anniversary, we look back at the biggest moments in Boston sports since 2009. Plus a milestone for Chris Sale and quite a proposed QB switch.

1:25 - 98.5 The Sports Hub is celebrating its 10th anniversary. To celebrate, Mike Felger stopped by Early Edition to discuss some of Boston Sports biggest moments of the last decade.

9:34 - Despite a tough year Chris Sale has just become the fastest pitcher to reach 2,000 strikeouts in baseball history - the BST crew discuss the accomplishment as well as if Sale will be able to get back on track next season.

13:44 - Phil Perry stops by Early Edition to discuss a piece from former Patriot Chris Long, who proposes that we could see a surprising move next season that would bring Jimmy Garoppolo back to Boston and send Tom Brady out west.

LISTEN & SUBSCRIBE:

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Do you buy Chris Long's aggressive Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo prediction?

Do you buy Chris Long's aggressive Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo prediction?

Retired defensive end Chris Long apparently has turned to hot-takery in his next career.

Long, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots during his lone season in New England in 2016, wrote a guest column for SI.com on Tuesday that included a pretty bold prediction about the future of Tom Brady and his former backup, Jimmy Garoppolo.

Here's a snippet:

Let’s say Jimmy G has a modest year (I don’t think he does) and looks like Tannehill 2.0. Next offseason, Brady hits the market and expresses interest in returning home to suit up for the team he adored as a teenager (in 1990). San Francisco releases Garoppolo and he ends up back in New England, where (Bill) Belichick beautifully repurposes what’s perceived as damaged goods.

Long's bold prediction: that Brady and Garoppolo star in their own version of "Trading Places," with Brady (a Bay Area native) signing with his hometown 49ers in 2020 free agency and the Patriots bringing back Garoppolo after San Francisco releases him. Long even goes one step further to foresee a Patriots-49ers Super Bowl between the swapped QBs.

This scenario technically could happen, as Brady's contract extension will make him a free agent at the start of the 2020 league year. And if you like reading tea leaves, the 42-year-old quarterback recently put his Brookline, Mass., house on the market after giving a less-than-ringing endorsement of his new contract.

Long also played with both QBs in 2016, so maybe he knows something we don't about their future desires.

... Or maybe he doesn't. The Niners invested five years and $137.5 million in Garoppolo after acquiring him in a 2017 trade with the Patriots, suggesting he's clearly their franchise quarterback, even if he has a down year while returning from a torn ACL.

As for Brady? We suppose San Francisco makes sense as the only other team he'd play for, but as long as New England is competing for Super Bowls on a weekly basis, it's hard to see him jumping ship this late in his career.

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