March 8, 2018

How Trading a Quarterback Led to Unity on One Team and Division on Another

Jacob Bier ‘19

The week before the National Football League trade deadline is always filled with excitement. In the days leading up to November 1, teams made many big trades. Star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was traded from the Carolina Panthers to the Buffalo Bills for two draft picks. Breakout running back Jay Ajayi flew from Miami to join the Philadelphia Eagles, who gave a fourth-round draft pick in return. But no trade was as exciting as the New England Patriots giving the San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick.
Due to the Deflategate scandal, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for four games during the 2016-2017 season. Garoppolo was forced to start in his place and his potential was evident immediately. He played in just two games before sustaining a shoulder injury, but in those games, he threw for almost 500 yards and a total of four touchdowns.
Garoppolo played so well in his first two starts that Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said that he ran the Patriots’ offense just as well as Tom Brady, who is widely considered to be the greatest quarterback of all time.
When Garoppolo was traded to San Francisco both teams had reasons to be happy. The Patriots received an additional draft pick in an early round while the 49ers, who had lost all eight of their games in the 2017-2018 season to that point, received a young quarterback with significant potential.
For the next few weeks, the 49ers continued to start quarterback C.J. Beathard instead of Garoppolo. Beathard experienced some minor success with a victory over the New York Giants, however, the team as a whole was still terrible.
Everything changed in a Week 12 game against the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers were losing 24-6 with only a few seconds left in the game. Suddenly, Beathard was injured and Garoppolo took the field for the first time as a 49er. Garoppolo played just three plays. He ran four yards, he completed a pass and he threw a touchdown. While the 49ers still lost the game, it gave the team hope for the future.
In the coming weeks, Garoppolo would turn the 49ers from one of the worst teams in the NFL into a team that could take on the best. They won every remaining game in their season. Garoppolo threw for 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns and is still undefeated as a starting quarterback. San Francisco football fans could not be happier.
In New England, the Patriots may be realizing the mistake they made. They traded a young quarterback with great potential and kept 40-year-old Tom Brady, whose performance thus far this season indicates that his ability to play consistently at an elite level may be coming to end.  
Recently, cracks in the Patriots have begun to show. Belichick reportedly was opposed to trading Garoppolo, who he believed was the future of the Patriots. However, Patriots owner Robert Kraft forced his hand. The rumor mill started and there were reports of Belichick leaving the Patriots to coach the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowls as defensive coordinator.
Belichick and Kraft have claimed that they are united and that Belichick has no intention of leaving New England. Either way, the New England Patriots will look very different next year. Both Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia are being interviewed by a number of teams in need of head coaches. Star cornerback Malcolm Butler will be a free agent. And, of course, Tom Brady will be 41 years old.

On the other side of the country, the San Francisco 49ers are shaping up to be one of the best teams in the league next year and with relatively high draft picks they will continue to improve their roster. The trade of Jimmy Garoppolo has the potential to change the course of the NFL for many years to come.

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