New England Patriots

By Ty Anderson,

Given the internal drive and fiercely-competitive nature of both Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, it borders on amazing that they managed to last three and a half seasons on the same depth chart with the New England Patriots.

In one corner, you had the No. 199 overall pick that truly had the borderline-psychotic mental makeup and vengeful demeanor of somebody passed up on 198 times. Brady had fought tooth and nail for every single opportunity that led him under center in Foxboro, and it was obvious that he wasn’t going to let anybody besides himself decide when his run was going end. After all, Drew Bledsoe’s inability to do exactly that in 2001 is what pushed him to that point. Also: Brady has performed at such a level — and for so long, mind you — that he had become the face of football’s Greatest of All Time debate.

In the other, though, the newest No. 2 in town behind Brady — one that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick hung onto for as long as he possibly could — was clearly going to test Brady’s will in this regard unlike anybody else. Garoppolo even admitted that he carried a ‘quiet confidence’ that pushed him to think he was better than Brady upon his arrival to the organization.

Like I said, getting three and a half years out of that is beyond impressive.

It’s a relationship the 26-year-old Garoppolo touched on more than a few times in a must-read story for Bleacher Report.

As for the relationship with Brady as a whole, it started out as one built on respect and quiet admiration for No. 12.

The first time Jimmy Garoppolo met Tom Brady was during a predraft visit. They shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, then disappeared into other meetings. Over the next three-and-a-half seasons in Foxborough, he mostly tried to stay out of the GOAT’s way. “I was going to watch and literally absorb everything I could from him without being an annoyance,” he says. “I didn’t want to ask a ton of questions. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. You have to play the politics a little bit.”

Garoppolo was not the first backup Brady had seen during his time in New England. And if Brady had his way (which he did with Garoppolo’s move to San Francisco), the Illinois-born quarterback that had flown under the radar would not be the last.

It’s also easy to see why Garoppolo, who told Bleacher Report that he watched Brady clips when first studying the quarterback position (Garoppolo’s consistent and thoughtful hesitation to become a quarterback is a fascinating sidebar in Joon Lee’s story), would want to stay out of Brady’s way and instead learn by watching.

But as Brady realized what the Patriots had in Garoppolo, the relationship quickly became competitive.

After practice, the two quarterbacks would often play the bucket game, which requires landing a football into a trash can in the back corner of the end zone. “There would be days where one of us would win and you wouldn’t talk to the other for a little while,” Jimmy says. “We’d be fine the next day, but it was one of the best things for me. We would push each other and we got two Super Bowls out of it.”

I’m not sure that anybody can even try to dispute that Garoppolo brought the best out of Brady. The Patriots won two Super Bowls with Garoppolo standing behind Brady, and Brady transformed his game from superhuman to Terminator. It probably made Belichick’s seemingly innocuous ‘We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is’ comment after drafting Garoppolo the greatest “wake-up call” in the history of professional sports. It was like when Skynet became self-aware.

“The competitiveness between the two of us was very similar. If I’m playing my best friend in one-on-one basketball, if we are both into it, by the end, we are going to hate each other,” Jimmy says. “That’s how it is. All the good competitors have that. We got along, but there were always times where we wanted to kill each other. It was a healthy, competitive relationship.”

This sounds like exactly what Belichick wants out of the most important position of his football team, to be perfectly honest.

(And Garoppolo touched on that relationship in this feature, too.)

And in New England, you try to not piss off the other GOAT, either. Belichick was a supporter, to be sure, but he and Garoppolo kept it strictly professional. “There was no BS’ing around,” Jimmy says. “I related to him in that way, as crazy as it sounds. He’s different than he is with the media. He has dry humor—he would say some stuff that was borderline mean. He would put up a lowlight clip every once in a while, and it was always your worst throws from practice. He would put it up there, and you already knew what was about to happen. Any position, there are so many people on the outside hyping you up and saying good things, that everyone needs to be brought back down.” (Belichick also declined to comment for this story.)

What Garoppolo didn’t hate hearing from Belichick (your flaws or bad decisions pointed out) sounds like some of the stuff Brady had reportedly grown tired of seeing brought to light after nearly two decades and five Super Bowl championships.

Garoppolo also went on to discuss the personal, off-field relationship he had with Brady, which seemed nothing but positive; Brady would check in with Garoppolo ‘once a week’ during the offseason to ask how he had been working to get better, and Brady and Gisele even set up a double-date with Garoppolo and a model friend. Not to read into the off-field workings of a quarterback tandem too much, but this would not be in line with the idea that Brady grew to dislike Garoppolo, or felt threatened by him to the point where he no longer wanted to be in the same locker room as him.

And asked about his trade out of New England, and the idea that Brady was the one that went to Patriots owner Robert Kraft saying that Garoppolo had to go, Garoppolo did his best to focus on what he actually knew about the situation.

“Parts of it were true, parts of it I knew weren’t true, parts I didn’t know if they were true or not,” Garoppolo says now. “I appreciated that Coach Belichick put me in the best situation—you hear those horror stories about guys finding out from … Twitter.”

It’s been reported (and disputed by some at the same time) that the Patriots rejected a ‘significantly’ better package from the Cleveland Browns and instead traded Garoppolo to the 49ers. That’s likely what Garoppolo, who probably knows the truth of where he could have landed better than anybody else, is referring to when talking about the ‘best situation.’

Brady, meanwhile, remains in his ‘best situation’ as the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots.

Where his competition with Garoppolo can resume on a much greater stage in early 2019 if they have it their way.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.