New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was fond of his backup quarterback. So fond of him, that when it came time to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, he wanted to make sure the quarterback went somewhere where he would flourish. Rather than fleece the Cleveland Browns for multiple draft picks and throw Garoppolo to a struggling organization, Belichick decided to send Tom Brady's protégé to someone he respected—San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

ESPN reported in January that Patriots owner Robert Kraft mandated the Garoppolo trade and Belichick abided. The team rebutted the story but never offered the details of what really went down before the October 30 trade. Still, the Patriots head coach liked Garoppolo and was reluctant to let him go—until, for whatever reason, he had to.

"Bill really, really liked Jimmy," Garoppolo's mother, Denise, told Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB. "Not like they were warm and fuzzy—but they both knew it was there."

After an almost four-week crash course learning Shanahan's system in San Francisco, Garoppolo started his first game for the 49ers, and it was against his hometown Chicago Bears. The 49ers squeaked out a 15-14 victory and then reeled off four more wins after losing 10 of their first 11 games.

After each start, Garoppolo received a congratulatory text from his former head coach, Belichick. It is proof that the quarterback was more than just another player on his roster. Belichick knew Garoppolo would find success. He just found it faster than anyone had anticipated.

Garoppolo has changed the mentality in San Francisco, among fans and his new teammates.

"I've been around here a couple offseasons where we've just been like, 'Man, I hope this year goes well,'" said veteran left tackle Joe Staley. "But now we're working for something. Have a bad play and it's like, 'We have to get this right.'"

For the first time in a long time, Staley says he can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The 49ers report to training camp on Wednesday with their first team practice scheduled for Thursday.