The SF 49ers visit the Patriots in Week 7, which marks the return of Jimmy Garoppolo to his former head coach, Bill Belichick, who sang the QB’s praises.
While the SF 49ers‘ Week 7 matchup against the New England Patriots won’t be quite as provocative if quarterback Tom Brady hadn’t departed his former team for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the offseason, the thought of Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo returning to face off against his former head coach with the Pats, Bill Belichick, is still quite the storyline between these two franchises.
Garoppolo, the centerpiece of that now-famous 2018 trade between San Francisco and New England, was initially seen as Brady’s heir apparent, the hand-picked successor Belichick wanted to eventually replace Brady.
Alas, it never worked out, and Garoppolo found himself with the SF 49ers.
But the question still looms: Does Belichick still miss Jimmy G?
“I’m glad that it’s worked out for him in San Francisco. I hope it doesn’t work out on Sunday,” Belichick told reporters last Monday. “But otherwise, I’m happy he’s had an opportunity to play for a great coach and a great organization and play on a great team. He deserves that. He’s certainly worked hard and earned it. I’m happy for him and his family.”
There was widespread speculation, stemming mostly from a January 2018 article from ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, Belichick wanted to move on from Brady and onto Garoppolo in a situation not unlike what the SF 49ers dealt with decades ago in the transition from quarterbacks Joe Montana to Steve Young. According to the article, Patriots owner Robert Kraft intervened on Brady’s behalf and urged Belichick to move on from Garoppolo instead.
Naturally, Belichick’s subsequent comments praising Garoppolo have been what most would expect from a former coach.
SF 49ers vs. Patriots: Bill Belichick still offering high praise for Jimmy Garoppolo
In Brady’s wake, the Pats landed former Carolina Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton, the 2015 MVP recipient, and Newton is now at the helm of the league’s 25th-ranked scoring offense. The Patriots have scored 30-plus points only twice this season — Weeks 2 and 3 against the Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders, respectively — and they’ve been held to a combined 22 points over their last two games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos.
On the season over four starts, Newton has passed for two touchdowns against four interceptions with a 81.5 passer rating while taking nine sacks.
Garoppolo, who has started four games this year as well, has seven touchdowns against two interceptions for a 101.2 passer rating while being sacked seven times.
“I don’t think there’s any question about his skill level and what he’s been able to accomplish and what his team has been able to accomplish,” Belichick told reporters in advance of hosting the SF 49ers this Sunday. “We’ll be ready for his best, and I’m sure we’ll get it.”
It’s anyone’s guess whether or not Belichick would prefer going back in time and undoing the trade, knowing Brady’s time in New England was limited anyway. But in true Belichick fashion, all he’d say is, “It’s onto the SF 49ers.”
Still, one can’t help but think Belichick still wishes Jimmy G was in a Pats uniform.
The Niners and Patriots kick off on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 4:25 p.m. ET from Gillette Stadium.