In the months since the defending champion New England Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, one major question has been asked.
Why did New England trade him in October after flatly turning down multiple trade overtures during the spring? The stance has always been that the Patriots fully hoped Garoppolo would sign an extension with the team, acting as Tom Brady’s heir-apparent when the future Hall of Fame quarterback eventually retired.
An impending free agent, the Patriots faced the possibility of losing Garoppolo for nothing following the 2017 season. Even then, there was always the franchise tag option that they could have levied on the young quarterback.
Now, in talking about his theory of what happened behind the scenes, Patriots beat writer Ben Volin of the Boston Globe has some interesting takes.
“The Patriots clearly traded Garoppolo out of loyalty to Tom Brady. Belichick wanted to keep Garoppolo for the future, but Brady is serious when he says he wants to play until he’s 45, and the Krafts made it clear to Belichick that Brady isn’t going anywhere this offseason,” Volin noted.
As connected as anyone covering the Patriots, Volin goes on to note that New England “botched this trade in every which way.” Ultimately, the team received a second-round pick from San Francisco for Garoppolo. At the time of the deal the 49ers had not won a single game, and were likely to boast one of the first two picks in that round.
But when Garoppolo took over in San Francisco, everything changed. He won all five of his starts — proving himself to be a franchise signal caller — one that Belichick himself viewed in that manner prior to the trade. Now, that second-round pick will fall just inside of the top 10.
More interesting than this, Volin firmly believes that Belichick was potentially looking to move on from Brady following the 2017 season, inserting Garoppolo as the starter at that time.
“The Patriots never intended to trade Garoppolo — until suddenly they did. And they dropped him right in the 49ers’ laps, without taking other bids,” the scribe noted. “The only plausible explanation for this sudden about-face is that Belichick was told that he’s not moving on from Brady after this season.”
This falls in line with a suggestion from at least one other media member, especially if we’re looking at the Robert Kraft dynamic.
Indeed, Volin points to Kraft as being one of the primary decision makers when it came to the Garoppolo trade.
This is clearly a surprising rebuke of the Patriots from someone who has covered the team for years. It could also very well ultimately be nothing more than pandering at a time when the football world is infatuated with Garoppolo. The shiny new toy. The newest “in thing.”
But it’s something to definitely keep an eye on. The NFL is all about recency bias. In less than one calendar year late in his career, all-time great quarterback Peyton Manning went from legit MVP candidate to being a potential detriment to the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl aspirations.
Could Brady be the next great to hit that inevitable wall? That might have led to Belichick himself turning down trade offer for Garoppolo during the spring.
Recency bias also tells us a story of a quarterback in Brady who has thrown more interceptions (six) in his past six games as he did in the previous 26 games combined (five).
Even the best organizations in the sports world are not immune from making major mistakes. For those hoping the Patriots’ dynasty continues over the next several seasons, this will be one story to watch.