On Friday, January 7, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan let it be known that Jimmy Garoppolo is recovering on schedule from the foot injury he suffered in Week 13 and may be healthy enough to play for the team yet if they need him in the Super Bowl. In 2023, however, it seems incredibly unlikely that Garoppolo will be back in red and gold, as he’s expected to have a robust free agent market that probably won’t include the Niners, who also employ Trey Lance and Brock Purdy.
Speaking with Colin Cowherd on The Herd, NFL analyst Jason McIntyre predicted that Garoppolo may ultimately opt to return to New England to compete with Mac Jones for the Patriots’ starting quarterback spot under the man who drafted him, Bill Belichick.
“I will go with a major curveball, and I will say Jimmy Garoppolo lands with the New England Patriots,” McIntyre said. “Colin, if you remember, Belichick drafted Garoppolo in 2014. You’ve been saying for weeks now that (Patriots owner Robert) Kraft is going to say to Bill, ‘Hey, what’s going on, Bill? Are you going to make some staff changes?’ Bill will say, ‘You know what? You made me get rid of Jimmy Garoppolo. Remember when Tom Brady and his wife complained to you? Bring me back Garoppolo and I’ll show you I can get to the playoffs and do some damage.’ Mac Jones, I think we would agree he’s regressed a little bit. I think Jimmy Garoppolo to the Patriots makes a lot of sense.”
Could a return to New England make sense for Garoppolo? Considering Belichick reportedly didn’t want to trade the Eastern Illinois product in the first place, that’s a distinct possibility, but Garoppolo may not be the only Patriots-drafted quarterback on the move in March. There’s another quarterback, widely considered one of the best to ever play the position, who could be looking for his final destination in the NFL.
Kyle Shanahan Was Once Very Complimentary of Another Patriots Draftee
On December 10, Kyle Shanahan was asked about Tom Brady’s play ahead of the Niners’ Week 14 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and whether or not he was the same player who initially arrived in Florida back in 2020.
“I’d like to say of course not, but I think everyone’s since then, you’re wondering when is the number too high?” Shanahan told reporters via Tampa Bay Times. “But now, like, when you watch him that first week in Tampa, you’re like, ‘What the h*ll was anyone ever thinking?’”
“The dude looks the exact same he did that year (in 2020). He does when he comes off injuries, and I think he’s playing as good now and throwing the ball as well now as I’ve seen anybody ever do it.”
Considering Brady’s pedigree in the NFL, and the ways he’s played football as a member of the Buccaneers, Shanahan’s words were justified heading into the contest, but his further complements had some, including the Tampa Bay Times, wondering if a union could be in the cards for the Bay Area franchise and product.
“He plays the position better than anyone ever, and he’s definitely the GOAT from what I’ve ever seen,” Shanahan said. “But I don’t say that just because he has won Super Bowls, but because of how he plays the position. The ball always goes to the right spot, and that answer is based off a thousand different things: it could be matchups, it could be the coverage, it could be based off a down and distance, the time in the game, how the defense is playing.”
“… He just has command of the game and knows how to win it and what it takes, whatever that is. He’s kind of flawless in his technique, how he gets everyone the ball, and he’s done that his whole career. But his throwing mechanics, they only get better each year. So, I feel like his arm’s stronger now than it was 10 years ago, and his legs move just as good as they did 10 years ago. … He’s still the best to play.”
Considering reporters from across the NFL, including most notably Albert Breer, have linked Brady to San Francisco earlier this season, Shanahan may end up coaching the New England draftee yet, but after watching another Day 3 quarterback emerge as a viable starter down the stretch, that may no longer be necessary.
The San Francisco 49ers Might Not Need Either NE QB in 2023
After beginning the 2022 regular season as San Francisco’s QB3, Purdy has improbably worked up the ranks to become the Niners’ undefeated starter through the month of December. Purdy has played so well that some, like former GM Randy Mueller, have suggested to Heavy that the 49ers may simply run an internal QB competition to decide on their Week 1 starter.
“They’re due to have a competition (in 2023). … I’ve got news for you, they might have two quarterbacks,” Mueller said during a December 29 Heavy Sports appearance. “Now the problem is, Brock Purdy is probably going to go into next year’s training camp as ‘the guy’ because he will have the skins on the wall. How do you not give him the first opportunity? So Trey Lance is going to have to earn his job back. I think if they add another veteran quarterback to that room, the 49ers could be poised for a long run at the top having solved their QB issues.”
Could that veteran quarterback be Brady? Depending on how his free agency shakes out that could be a possibility, but bringing in Brady brings a certain expectation to start and with Purdy and Lance already under contract, that might not be the optimal path John Lynch wants to traverse.