Seth Wickersham’s new Patriots-centric book “It’s Better to be Feared” doesn’t just deal in Tom Brady-Bill Belichick debate fodder. It also casts an image of the New England offense led by someone other than Mac Jones in the 2021 season — and that man wasn’t Cam Newton, either.
Wickersham writes the Patriots did engage in preliminary discussions with the San Francisco 49ers about trading for the team’s former second-round quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo prior to the 2021 NFL Draft before ultimately passing on a deal and selecting Jones.
“There was an informal call between a high-level representative of the Patriots and a high-level 49ers official,” the author wrote. “What was Garoppolo’s price? New England wondered if a second-rounder would suffice—calling it even from 2017. But the 49ers wouldn’t take less than a first.”
The book’s timeline suggests these talks happened before the 49ers sent a treasure trove of picks to the Miami Dolphins in order to move up to No. 3 overall, where San Francisco eventually took quarterback Trey Lance.
At that time, the 49ers were arguably in a similar place as the Patriots were with Newton: “Counting on” Garoppolo, the incumbent starting quarterback, for insurance while looking to upgrade in the draft or by trade if possible.
Meanwhile, New England reportedly saw Garoppolo as an optimal option, in theory, to get their offense back on track, having seen him play in their system for three years.
But the deal never materialized.
“The Patriots reached the same conclusion as San Francisco — they liked the potential of the available first-round quarterbacks more than Garoppolo — and moved on,” Wickersham wrote.
Then, of course, there’s the controversy about the 49ers potentially waffling between taking Jones, a polished prospect out of Alabama, or Lance, a smart, physically gifted passer with rawness but remarkable upside. In the end, Lance went to San Francisco, and Jones fell all the way to New England at No. 15.
Fast forward to Week 8 of the NFL season, and Jones (1,779 passing yards, 70.4 completion percentage, 9 TDs, 6 INTs, 53.5 QBR) is not only the best of the rookie quarterback class but is easily better than Garoppolo (1,106 passing yards, 64.8 completion percentage, 6 TDs, 4 INTs, 38.1 QBR) right now as well.
There’s been plenty to criticize about Bill Belichick’s in-game decision-making this season, particularly as it relates to being too cautious with his rookie quarterback.
But on this occasion, it looks like waiting rather than making an aggressive play paid off. Now the Patriots have a young quarterback in Jones who’s improving with each game instead of Garoppolo, whose days as an NFL backup might be approaching fast.
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