Tomase: Jimmy Garoppolo contract leads to uneasy question -- did Patriots bet on wrong guy?

John Tomase
February 08, 2018 - 3:01 pm
Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo

Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports


The Patriots and 49ers both just made enormous bets on their quarterbacks.

Which organization would you rather be for the next five years?

In New England, that quarterback is 40-year-old Tom Brady, who only days ago completed the greatest losing performance in Super Bowl history. He threw for a record 505 yards in Philadelphia's 41-33 victory. If that's what a decline looks like, who can blame owner Robert Kraft for saying, "Sign me up."

The 49ers, meanwhile, reportedly agreed to a five-year, $137.5 million extension with Brady's former backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, making him the highest-salaried player in football. In San Francisco, they were calling him Jimmy GQ for his combination of movie star looks and supreme on-field confidence. He led the 49ers to five straight victories to end the season, prompting teammates to guarantee a berth in Super Bowl LIII.

Patriots fans need no refresher on the ballad of Brady vs. Jimmy G. We lived that production for more than a year before Bill Belichick shocked everyone -- including, possibly, the Krafts -- by giving away Garoppolo on Halloween for a second-round pick. The deal looked really bad that day, but today it qualifies as malpractice. A GM without Belichick's job security would probably be job hunting for egregiously minimizing the return on such a valuable asset.

We cut Belichick slack, however, for recognizing what ownership and certainly Brady could not -- that Garoppolo represented the future.

Which brings us back to the original question: which organization would you rather be for the next five years?

The 49ers boast a top-10 pick, a creative young coach in Kyle Shanahan, and now the quarterback to take them into the future. There's no reason they can't contend for a division title, even with a challenging schedule that includes games at Green Bay, Minnesota, Kansas City, and the Chargers next season.

The Patriots, meanwhile, staunched the bleeding of a rough offseason by retaining offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels practically as he was boarding the plane to his introductory press conference as Colts head coach.

The Pats still face fallout from their Super Bowl loss, with Belichick finding himself in the rare position of having to answer for a questionable coaching decision following the benching of corner Malcolm Butler. With defensive coordinator Matt Patricia headed to Detroit and McDaniels initially expected to take special teams coach Joe Judge with him to Indy, Belichick faced the daunting task of replacing all of his coordinators.

McDaniels staying changes that, but it doesn't change the uncertainty facing the organization. In addition to needing a defensive overhaul, the Pats must figure out tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is talking about leaving football for acting (?!?) in what sounds pretty clearly like a negotiating tactic to reduce his reliance on incentives.

Belichick's future continues to be an open question, with some taking the retention of McDaniels to signal the Hoodie's looming departure. Even if that's not the case, it's safe to say that Belichick's expiration date suddenly feels tangible.

And we still don't know what to make of his relationship with Brady, who has ascended to a rung on the organizational hierarchy that feels below ownership but above -- or at least at eye level with -- the coaching staff. Between Guerrero, the TB12 Method, and Tom vs. Time, it's hard to argue that Brady remains as singularly focused on football as he once was. It's reasonable to believe his extracurriculars have created friction with Belichick, just as the coach's long-term interest in Garoppolo may have spooked Brady.

Now Jimmy G. is gone, preparing to embark on life as a franchise quarterback on the West Coast. Meanwhile, Brady hopes to hold on for as long as possible, but he and Belichick have officially reached the year-to-year portion of their partnership. This could all be over in 2019, for all we know.

Garoppolo could spend the next decade in San Francisco, and he might win a title. At some point in that timeframe, Brady will retire.

If we're being honest with ourselves about who's situation is better, there's really only one choice, right?

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