Swapping Out Jimmy Garoppolo For Tom Brady is a Risk Too Big to Take For the 49ers

Liam McKeone
Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo trading places?
Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo trading places? / Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
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The Tom Brady free agency rumors continue to emerge in abundance, and one in particular has picked up steam over the last two days. Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston went on Mad Dog Radio yesterday and said there's some credibility to the rumors that the San Francisco 49ers would like to bring in Brady for next season and get out of Jimmy Garoppolo's $137.5 million contract that's set to pay him $23.8 million in 2020. Presumably, the Niners would cut Garoppolo outright for only a $4 million dead cap hit, and bring in Brady for whatever money he wants. The Patriots are then free to sign Garoppolo, who was reportedly very much in Bill Belichick's good graces before he was shipped off to the West Coast.

New England's motivation to make such a swap is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. If you're going to lose Tom Brady, grabbing one of the very few other QBs that Belichick loved during his tenure is a pretty good Plan B. While Garoppolo's limitations have been held under a microscope since the Super Bowl, he's probably the best realistic option available.

The Niners' side of things, on the other hand, is harder to understand. The popular discourse suggests that if San Francisco had a quarterback that Kyle Shanahan trusted, they would have been Super Bowl champions. Garoppolo can carve up defenses at every level of the field when he's feeling it, but he's also prone to avoidable turnovers and shaky accuracy. Say what you might about Brady's current skill level, his accuracy remains above-average and he avoids turnovers like the plague. In the final two minutes of a Super Bowl, Brady is definitely an upgrade over Garoppolo, and just about every other quarterback in the league outside of Kansas City.

But there's 18 other games to play before the Niners get to the Super Bowl, and it's worth wondering just how much of an upgrade Brady is for all the other games that must be played. In 2019, Brady threw for 4,057 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions while completing 60.8 percent of his passes; Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions while completing 69.1 percent of his passes. Brady, as we all know, did all that with a less-than-stellar supporting cast. Overall, Garoppolo was better, but had George Kittle and the NFL's best play-caller in Shanahan. It's reasonable to assume Brady would put up similar numbers with the type of run game Garoppolo had and a weapon like Kittle.

So regular-season play is a push, and Brady gets the edge for postseason play. But the biggest problem with a swap like this is that the Niners are assuming their window will close after next season. If they give up on Garoppolo, they could be left without a future at quarterback after one or two seasons, which is a rather important position in the NFL. Every other part of their team is young; the defensive line is filled with first-round draft picks from the last four years and Kittle is only 26.

You want to maximize your window in the NFL, and if Garoppolo had a stinker of a Super Bowl, then giving up on him to go all-in with Brady for the next two years is justifiable. But Garoppolo wasn't awful, he just wasn't good enough. I'm sure every Niners fan would be perfectly fine with bailing on Jimmy G if it guaranteed a Super Bowl. But it doesn't. It only guarantees that the Niners will be looking for another answer at quarterback much sooner than they thought. As it stands, San Francisco is looking at a pretty big championship window with the talent they already have. Is it worth shortening the window to increase the chances of a ring sooner rather than later? That's a question John Lynch will have to answer, but from where I'm sitting, it's a risk too big to take.

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