At the 2014 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots shocked the NFL by drafting Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with the 62nd overall pick in the second round.
As the months led up to the draft, there was a budding hype surrounding the FCS quarterback and for good reason. Garoppolo had a ridiculous four-year career at EIU, which saw him throw for 13,156 yards, 118 touchdowns, 51 interceptions and complete on average 62.1 percent of his passes.
In his senior season at Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo led the Panthers to their second-straight Ohio Valley Conference title and another FCS playoffs appearance. Garoppolo completed 66 percent of his passes for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions.
Garoppolo had done it all and continued on his upward trend by participating in both the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. Historically, those two All-Star games can help or hurt a draft prospect, but for Garoppolo it helped his stock as he was named the Offensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game.
Coming out of EIU, Garoppolo was being compared to another EIU quarterback in Tony Romo. However unlike Romo, who was an undrafted free agent and rose to stardom, there was a higher expectation placed on Garoppolo as he was going to potentially replace Brady.
However, it would take a long time for Garoppolo to actually see the field with New England. He played sparingly in his first two seasons, but at the same time there was no rush to get him on the field with Brady continuing to play at a high level.
Nevertheless, the Patriots decided to flip the switch again, this time in the 2016 NFL Draft. New England drafted another quarterback, this time in the third round in North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett. The decision to draft Brissett was puzzling at the moment because everybody assumed Garoppolo was the guy.
But then again, there was still question marks surrounding the FCS superstar heading into his third season. Some of those questions would get answered in the beginning of last season as Brady was serving a four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate.
With Brady out for the first quarter of the season, it was time for Garoppolo to show the NFL what he was capable of accomplishing.
In the regular season opener against the Arizona Cardinals, Garoppolo did not do anything special but was efficient, completing 72.7 percent of his passes for 264 yards and a touchdown to help the Patriots win 23-21. Garoppolo ran the offense and did not turn the ball over, which is key for a young quarterback.
Then in the following week’s game against the Dolphins, Garoppolo showed out. He torched the Dolphins’ defense to the tune of 232 yards and three touchdowns, before suffering a shoulder injury late in the late first half.
Just like in the regular season opener, Garoppolo showed off his quick release, his rifle of an arm, poise in the pocket, and mobility. All of those qualities are what makes a confident NFL quarterback.
Even though that was Garoppolo’s last meaningful snaps in 2016 as Brissett took over for the next two games, the Patriots and the rest of the NFL had figured out what type of quarterback he was.
Now with other NFL teams knowing what Garoppolo could do, plus with Brissett showing that he has some skill, and Brady still defying father time, a trade market began to develop.
In April of this year, the Cleveland Browns who missed out on Carson Wentz in the 2016 NFL Draft and ended up selecting DeShone Kizer with their second-round pick this year’s draft, wanted to make a trade for Garoppolo.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Browns gave the Pats a call about Garoppolo, but to no avail the Patriots were not interested in trading him at that point. But the Pats changed course months later at the NFL trade deadline as they finally moved on from Garoppolo in a shocking trade with San Francisco 49ers. The Niners gave up a 2018 second-round pick in exchange for Garoppolo.
For the Niners, they saw this as a great trade that could help propel their franchise to their next level.
"We really, genuinely believe that this guy has got the makings of a guy who could be our guy for years to come,” said 49ers general manager John Lynch on Nov. 22. “That's all got to come to fruition on the field and all that, but that was kind of a throwaway line that got a lot of attention."
Lynch has not been wrong his prediction on Garoppolo. Since being named the starter over rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard in Week 13, Garoppolo is proving that he is a starting NFL quarterback and in the same breath, reinvigorated the Niners’ offense.
In the last three games, he has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,008 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. While the touchdowns and interceptions may not be impressive, Garoppolo is still being efficient with less than stellar options at the skill positions.
This was evident against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, who are fighting for their playoff lives. Garoppolo did not do anything special but ran Kyle Shanahan’s offense to perfection. He got the ball out his hands quickly and hit his receivers in stride and let them show off their physical skills.
It was an absolute clinic by Garoppolo as he turned in his best performance of his young Niners’ career, completing 72.1 percent of his passes for 381 yards and a touchdown. He did this against a Titans’ defense, who is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 62.4 percent of their passes, good for 16th in the NFL.
The Niners are 3-0 since Garoppolo was given the starting reins and averaging 22 points per game. With Hoyer and Beathard under center, San Fran was 1-10 and only scoring 17 points per game.
For Shanahan and Lynch, they need to see Garoppolo continue to take those next steps as a quarterback, but also put better pieces around him. They need to upgrade the offensive line, which has given up 39 sacks with an adjusted sack rate of 7.7 percent, according to Football Outsiders.
Along with the o-line, San Francisco to address the running back position. While Carlos Hyde has been serviceable, he isn’t a playmaker. If the Niners could somehow nab Saquon Barkley in the first round, which our Jeff Risdon has him projected to go, that will only make their offense more dynamic.
But as for right now, Garoppolo is playing fantastic football and bringing new hope to the Bay Area. If this trade does pan out the way that the Niners’ front office brass hopes, then they may have struck gold in a NFL quarterback mine that not does not always produce gems.