How An Eastern Illinois Product Became The Next $100 Million Man
Now that it’s February 2018, all of you know the name Jimmy Garoppolo.
He’s a 6’2 prototype QB from Arlington Heights, Illinois. He racked up over 13,000 passing yards in his 4 years at Eastern Illinois University, where he won the Walter Payton Award as a senior in 2013. He also brought home the OVC Athlete of the Year and College Football Performance FCS National Quarterback of the Year awards in 2013. His decorated college career also included completing 62.8% of his passes for 118 TD’s and 51 INT’s.
His college production earned him a top grade for quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft, where Bill Belichick and the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo 62nd overall (2nd round). At the time, and currently, the Patriots boasted arguably the best passer in the game (and of this era) in Tom Brady, which meant Garoppolo was going to be a project for the future. He could learn for a few seasons under Brady and Belichick, like Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre did in Green Bay not all that long ago. In his 2014 rookie campaign, he appeared in 6 games in relief of Brady. He would go 19-27 (70.4%) for 180 yards and 1 TD for a passer rating of 101.2. However efficient he looked as a rookie, Garoppolo only attempted 4 passes all of 2015, completing just 1 of them.
Then the 2016 season rolled around and saw the infamous DeflateGate scandal come to a head. Brady was suspended for the first 4 games of the season, and Jimmy Garoppolo was given the reigns as the starter until Tom Brady came back in week 5. Garoppolo threw for 264 yards on 24-33 completions in a week 1 win, and was the best player on the field in the first half in week 2 against Miami. He threw for 234 yards and 3 TD’s in the first half before injuring his shoulder on a Kiko Alonso hit. Garoppolo would miss the next two games of Brady’s suspension with the injury, and not play again in 2016.
However for the Patriots, the damage was already done. Their secret had been let completely out of the bag after Jimmy’s performances as a full starter in weeks 1 and 2 of the 2016 season. Trade rumors had already been swirling all year long, and only intensified heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. But the draft and offseason came and went, and it appeared Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick had decided to keep their next QB prodigy.
Then as the 2017 season was settling in, the Patriots decided to put the house on Tom Brady’s long term ability and trade both of their backup QB’s in Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo himself. Garoppolo was sent off to the San Francisco 49ers, who had previously attempted to trade for him, for just a 2018 2nd round pick.
Jimmy promptly saw action in week 12 after incumbent starter CJ Beathard went down to injury against the Seahawks. Garoppolo never lost his starting job after that. How? Simply by bringing his previously 1-10 teammates on a 5 game winning streak including wins over the eventual playoff teams of Tennessee, Jacksonville and Los Angeles (Rams). Jimmy completed over 67% of his passes, tossing 7 TD’s in his 6 games as a 49er for 1,560 yards. He also added 5 INT’s, but overall posted a 78.2 QBR and a 96.2 passer rating.
San Francisco had seen enough, and decided that Jimmy was their man for the future. They recently signed the Eastern Illinois product to a monster 5 year, $137.5 million dollar deal which includes over $70 million guaranteed. The $27.5 million per year is the largest contract in NFL history.
Drafted just 4 years ago, Jimmy Garoppolo turned draft hype into a learner’s permit in NE, which only lead to more hype around the league after his flashes of competency in relief roles. He would start just 7 games from 2014-2017, and now has signed the most lucrative deal in the league’s history.
If you think that last paragraph sounds off-the-wall insane, there is a large contingent of the sports world that would agree with you. But in an era of the NFL that is seeing injuries derail teams and a lack of consistent QB play, the 49ers were taking no chances being the dunce that let Jimmy G walk away. Right now they can have the last laugh as the paltry return that NE got for Jimmy seems like San Francisco won a minor lottery. What will 2018 tell us? I’m just as excited as you to find out.