Jimmy Garoppolo spent nearly four seasons sitting behind and learning from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady before Bill Belichick traded him to the San Francisco 49ers. The move shocked the young quarterback, who was just days away from celebrating his 26th birthday. Months later, Garoppolo was the face of a new franchise, improved his record as a starter to 7-0, and was rewarded by the 49ers with a new five-year deal worth up to $137.5 million.

Garoppolo has no shortage of confidence, even as he sat behind one of the greatest of all time. Here he was, the backup to the player he watched film on while learning how to play quarterback in high school.

"It wasn't even like I was a Patriots fan," Jimmy told Joon Lee of Bleacher Report, "but seeing him do that, it was flawless. I was like, 'OK, that's how I should throw.'"

When Garoppolo finally arrived in New England, he tried to stay out of Brady's way and not ask too many questions. Instead, he absorbed as much as possible from the veteran quarterback without being an annoyance. While the relationship between the two was good, it was competitive.

"We got along," said Garoppolo, "but there were always times where we wanted to kill each other. It was a healthy, competitive relationship."

Garoppolo felt that one day he could unseat his mentor in New England as the Patriots' starting quarterback. A lofty aspiration for sure, but something that was always on Garoppolo's mind -- even as a rookie.

"I've always had that mindset," he said. "I knew that [Brady] was better than me in my first day in the NFL. Naturally, you're the rookie and he's the veteran, but you have to have that mindset, that you want to be the starter."

All backup quarterbacks yearn for more. The reality is that the vast majority of starters are better than their backups. Garoppolo always felt he was more. Lee asked the quarterback if he really believed he was better than Brady.

"It was always a quiet confidence," Garoppolo answered. "I would never speak that."

Lee asked again if he believed he was the best quarterback in New England.

"Yeah, you believe in yourself," Garoppolo responded. "That's the best way to put it."

Of course, despite their competitive relationship, Garoppolo never told Brady he thought he was the better quarterback.

"I'm not stupid," he said. "You have to pick your battles, but I had belief in myself that I could do certain things, and it's always worked out pretty well. It will always be in me, that drive that comes from my dad telling me that someone is always working harder, that I'm always in last place and I need to catch up to someone else."

The 49ers could have used the franchise tag on Garoppolo to further observe the quarterback beyond his five starts in 2017. Doing so, however, could have cost the 49ers more down the road had he excelled in 2018. Garoppolo also preferred the security of a long-term contract.

"I didn't want to play around with the franchise tag because it's just a distraction that you don't need," said Garoppolo. "There are so many things that go into it outside of football. Now that we have this set in stone for years, it's done, and there's nothing to worry about."

Garoppolo was eager to prove himself capable as an NFL starting quarterback. While he would have had to wait to do so in New England, he finally has that opportunity in San Francisco.

"It would've been cool to play for Belichick and do that stuff and be in that system once Brady retires," said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, "but he didn't want to wait. That's the guy you want."

The 49ers report to training camp on Wednesday. Click here to read Lee's full feature on Garoppolo at Bleacher Report.

Related News