San Francisco 49ers

Report: 49ers were beneficiary of Patriots’ clash of egos

New England Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady, left, and Jimmy Garoppolo warm up before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass.
New England Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady, left, and Jimmy Garoppolo warm up before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. AP

Why did the New England Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a mere second-round pick, one that decreased in value over the last month precisely because Garoppolo was so effective in San Francisco?

It was a puzzler since the trade occurred and one an ESPN piece on Friday addressed.

For one, according to author Seth Wickersham, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has great respect for Kyle Shanahan and his father, Mike, even meeting with Kyle at last year’s combine a few weeks after the Patriots had defeated Shanahan’s Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. Belichick texted Shanahan in late October just before the trade.

“Belichick believed that Garoppolo would excel under Shanahan, and when he and Shanahan connected on the phone, Belichick offered the quarterback for a second-rounder,” according to the story.

A bigger driving force behind the trade, the story contends, was a battle of wills among Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and team owner Robert Kraft. Belichick, according to the story, wanted to hang onto Garoppolo and saw him as the bridge to continuing the team’s dynasty.

“Garoppolo played well in 2016, starting in place of the suspended Brady, and Belichick began to see Garoppolo as the final piece of his legacy, to walk away in a few years with the Patriots secure at quarterback.”

Brady, however, believed he had discovered a fountain of youth and wants to keep playing in coming seasons. With Garoppolo heading for free agency in March – and after he and agent Don Yee rejected attempts to sign him to contract extensions – the Patriots felt they had to make a decision.

Two weeks before the Nov. 1 trade deadline, Belichick and Kraft met for half of the day to decide the team’s quarterback fate. “The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans,” according to the report.

The Patriots today issued a statement about what they described as “speculated theories.” “It is unfortunate that there is even a need to respond to these fallacies,” it concluded. “As our actions have shown, we stand united.”

According to the story, the trade provided relief for Brady, 40, who saw Garoppolo as a threat. But it also appears to have given vindication to Belichick. “He has taken pride in Garoppolo’s 5-0 record in San Francisco – and in the fact that Kraft has confessed to people in the building that trading Garoppolo might have been a mistake,” Wickersham wrote.

According to the story, the episode has left an element of dread and sadness in New England. What are the implications for San Francisco?

For one, it confirms the belief that Belichick has a strong attachment to Garoppolo, something that could be problematic for the 49ers if they fail to ink the quarterback to a long-term deal.

But it also reinforces the notion that the 49ers are the right spot for Garoppolo. After all, Belichick was on his side during the internecine squabble in New England and he wanted to send Garoppolo to a spot where he would flourish.

That spot? Santa Clara.

Fox Sports rules analysts Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino discuss the San Francisco 49ers recent upswing and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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