By Adam Zaki
Published: November 1st, 2017
In what is widely an abandoned strategy in the modern NFL, a last-minute trade between the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers on Monday has changed the fate for both franchises for many seasons to come.
For a second-round pick from San Francisco, the Patriots sent over their widely-renowned backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has sat behind Tom Brady for his entire career. His three-year career surmounts to 63 pass completions, a small sample size that came mostly in 2016. In six games, Garoppolo threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Consistent play at the quarterback position is the most valuable asset for any team looking to compete at any level of football. In today’s NFL, the position is so starved of productivity, that quarterbacks that have absolutely no ability to compete at the NFL level take up roster spots and salary cap space, and are sometimes given the opportunity to see the field.
After putting up his worst career numbers as a starter, quarterback Bryan Hoyer was subsequently cut from the 49ers after the Garoppolo trade. It is rumored that Hoyer may sign with the team that began his career as an undrafted free agent—the Patriots. In order to replace their now vacant backup quarterback spot, a rekindling with Hoyer is the security blanket New England needs.
Like many backups around the league, Hoyer’s chance to compete as a top-tier quarterback has been eliminated, as his fate is sealed as a backup. In his rightful role, Hoyer will take his limited skillset back to the sideline should he sign with New England. In a lucrative career as an insurance policy for a team whose expectations would vanish should the Patriots’ starting quarterback Tom Brady go down, Hoyer’s position as an NFL player just got significantly less strenuous.
With Brady saying numerous times he has no immediate plans of walking away from the game, Garoppolo’s departure to the 49ers isn’t detrimental to the future of New England. After playing behind Brady and alongside head coach Bill Belichick, Garoppolo’s exposure to a winning atmosphere and culture gives him an upside that quarterbacks around the league just don’t have the opportunity to gain.
The 49ers are a dismal 0-8 with no playoff hopes, and will not put Garoppolo on the field until he has adjusted to a new city, coaching staff, team, and playbook. Whether it is continuing to play CJ Beathard or bringing in a spare part off the street, the Niners are going to wait to showcase their newest acquisition. The move to keep Garoppolo sidelined isn’t a killer; a few weeks on the bench will pay dividends down the road if Garoppolo can be given a mildly rigorous learning environment.
The trade gives the 49ers an extreme upside for the next few seasons, as Garoppolo is a seemingly perfect fit for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme, who many speculated was waiting along with the 49ers’ general manager John Lynch for a run for the Washington Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins. The two have been noted to begin working together in front office moves. As a team with a rapidly evaporating culture in a brand new, $1.3 billion stadium, the 49ers ownership brought in the duo over the offseason to turn the franchise around. The acquisition of Garoppolo is the first major move for the organization with Lynch and Shanahan at the helm.
With Garoppolo now under center, Shanahan has the tool to his offense that he needed to give himself an opportunity to prove himself as a head coach. The addition of Garoppolo is not the answer to all of the 49ers’ woes, but is a start for an organization that is so desperate to compete.