Jimmy Garoppolo’s departure from San Francisco could be seen from the moment the 49ers traded up to select Trey Lance.
His next stop, though, almost seemed to fit too perfectly to end up becoming reality.
Garoppolo signed with the Las Vegas Raiders — the former Bay Area rival of the 49ers and the current home of Garoppolo’s former offensive coordinator, Raiders coach Josh McDaniels — after six and a half seasons in San Francisco. The financial total: $72.75 million over three years, including $34 million in guaranteed money. And perhaps the most important element of it all: familiarity.
“Oh yeah,” Garoppolo said Friday when asked if the Raiders were on his radar as he approached free agency. “Right off the bat actually, one of my agents gave me the first list of teams. Raiders were right up there. I have the familiarity with Josh, Dave (Ziegler) – the [general manager]. All that played a role.”
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Garoppolo’s move from the 49ers to the Raiders almost seemed written in the stars, but the NFL world was too busy ignoring the constellation while searching for the distant planet that was a soon-to-be-retired Tom Brady. Instead of pairing up with a legendary former Patriots quarterback, McDaniels had his sights trained on a younger signal-caller whom he knew very well.
In hindsight, McDaniels’ benching of Derek Carr for another former Patriot, Jarrett Stidham, made his offseason intentions obvious: Go get Jimmy.
Garoppolo cut his NFL teeth with the Patriots, joining New England as a second-round pick in the 2014 draft and sitting behind Brady for his first two seasons. He replaced a suspended Brady for what was supposed to be four games to start 2016, but ended up being only two starts.
Still, the 49ers had seen enough in Garoppolo’s four starts (including a 4-0 TD-INT ratio and a 2-0 record as a starter) to acquire him via trade before that year’s deadline. Garoppolo departed New England after two and a half seasons spent working with McDaniels and became San Francisco’s franchise quarterback — that is, until 2021 arrived, when the 49ers moved up in the draft, selected Lance, and started the countdown clock on the end of the Garoppolo era.
During his introductory news conference, Garoppolo explained that he’ll need an adjustment period to clear his brain of Kyle Shanahan’s offense before attempting to reconnect the neural pathways of McDaniels’ system. He won’t need too much time, though.
“Kyle’s offense versus Josh’s offense, it’s just a different mindset behind it,” Garoppolo explained. “So, I think revamping my mind like that is the first step. And then just relearning the language. Basically, like going Spanish to French, something like that. It won’t take long, but I think Josh’s offense obviously has evolved over the years. Just gotta pick it up as quick as possible, but it won’t take long.”
McDaniels and Zielger are quickly reshaping the Raiders in their image, dumping former stars like Carr and tight end Darren Waller and replacing them with Garoppolo and former Patriots standout receiver Jakobi Meyers. It’s not quite New England West, but it’s starting to look a bit like what was built in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Garoppolo made it clear Friday he still has plenty to prove. The quarterback who reached two NFC title games and one Super Bowl still doesn’t have a ring earned as a starter. The Raiders didn’t live up to expectations last season, either, falling well short of their goal with a third-place finish in the AFC West at 6-11.
Garoppolo believes brighter days are ahead, and McDaniels’ presence has plenty to do with it.
“For me, it starts with he’s very smart. He’s very smart,” Garoppolo said of his coach. “Taught me the game of football basically in the NFL. But he cares, too, about the game. He cares about winning. You can really tell, just talking to him that winning is very important. I wouldn’t say that’s true about everybody in the NFL. When you do get an opportunity like that, it’s hard to pass up.
“Josh, he’ll push you, but you appreciate it in the end.”
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