The Patriots have a problem at quarterback, and it may be even bigger than we thought.
After Cam Newton fell into their lap this summer, the belief was the team had two potential starters both in the short and long-term with Newton and Jarrett Stidham. Bill Belichick stressed how competitive the position was all summer before giving the starting job to Newton after the second-year player missed some valuable reps with a hip injury.
Then came the first two weeks of the season when the Patriots beat Miami and passed for close to 400 yards in Seattle in a last second defeat. The thought then was the Patriots had the biggest steal in the league with Newton and they should look to sign him to a contract extension.
Well, that didn’t last long.
Newton has struggled mightily in the last three games he’s appeared him, but none more so than Sunday in the 33-6 loss to the 49ers when he was pulled in the fourth quarter following three interceptions and less than 100 yards passing. Stidham replaced him and he wasn’t much better, adding an interception of his own.
The pair has combined for two touchdown passes and nine interceptions this year with Stidham contributing three picks. While he’s only appeared in mop-up duty, which isn’t always easy, he’s thrown interceptions in three of his four appearances where he’s thrown a pass in his career. And then while Newton looked good the first two weeks, the fact of the matter is he’s 2-11 in his last 13 games and has thrown 11 touchdowns to 17 interceptions during that span.
The Patriots have gone from potentially having two options at quarterback for 2021 to likely none.
(The jury is still out on Stidham, but from the limited sample we’ve seen he doesn’t appear to be the guy.)
This is where Jimmy Garoppolo comes in.
The former Patriots backup returned to New England on Sunday and did what he’s done since he left — win. He trails only Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes for the best winning percentage with at least 30 starts since the NFL merger. He’s not as flashy as some of the other great quarterbacks in the NFL, but he just gets the job done.
That was the case on Sunday when he was 20-for-25 with 277 yards and two picks, but he was in complete control the entire game and one of the picks was on the final play of the first half when he just heaved the ball towards the end zone.
Garoppolo is an interesting case with the 49ers as it just doesn’t seem like head coach Kyle Shanahan is completely sold on him, even though he took him to a Super Bowl a year ago. While he is currently signed to a five-year, $137.5 million deal, the 49ers can get out of it this offseason as he only has a dead cap hit of $2.8 million next season.
Some have speculated Shanahan and the 49ers could move on from Garoppolo after the year no matter what happens this season, and if that is the case, Belichick should fire off 10 times as many texts to him than he reportedly did following Garoppolo’s first few starts in the league.
It would be a huge mistake for San Fran to move on from Garoppolo, but that could be just what the Patriots need to figure out their quarterback position again since that seems to be what will be taking place again this offseason.
Garoppolo just fits the Patriots system well, which was evident when he was with the team a few years back. One of his biggest strengths is reading defenses and quickly going through his progressions to find the open receiver, which is something Newton is clearly having issues with.
It also doesn’t feel like Shanahan’s scheme allows him to do that. The majority of the passing plays called are designed to go to the first read.
It’s been well-documented how much Belichick loved Garoppolo and reportedly wanted to win a Super Bowl with him even during Tom Brady’s time with the team, so it wouldn’t take much for the Patriots to be interested. And knowing what we know about Garoppolo, he likely would welcome a return as well.
Shanahan already gave the Patriots a gift in Super Bowl LI, but who knows, maybe he and San Fransisco will give them another this offseason by releasing/trading Garoppolo.
Given the current outlook at quarterback, the Patriots can only hope.
What a story that would be.