Report: Tom Brady's Top Choice in Free Agency Was 49ers; SF Opted for Garoppolo

Adam WellsOctober 1, 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
AP Photo/Kyusung Gong

Coming off an impressive 2019 season that included an appearance in Super Bowl LIV, the San Francisco 49ers reportedly caught the eye of Tom Brady during the offseason as he was making the rounds in free agency.

Appearing on WEEI's Merloni and Fauria show (h/t Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com), ESPN's Seth Wickersham said the Niners were Brady's top choice in free agency. 

Wickersham noted San Francisco's coaching staff did "extensive work" on Brady, but felt they were "better off" sticking with Jimmy Garoppolo. 

Wickersham has been making the media rounds this week in support of his new book, It’s Better To Be Feared, about Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots from 2001-19.

Per Conor Roche of Boston.com, Wickersham wrote in the book that Brady contacted former teammate Wes Welker, who has been the Niners wide receivers coach since 2019, in the aftermath of Super Bowl LIV to let him know he wanted to play in San Francisco:

"In an excerpt from the book, Brady told Welker that there would be 'no free-agency tour, no bidding war, full stop; he would end his career where his love of football began, in scarlet and gold, allowing his parents to drive to (his) games for the first time since the 1990s,' if the 49ers wanted him."

Per Wickersham (h/t Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area), 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and each of the team's offensive assistants watched all of Brady's throws from the 2019 season to provide their evaluations. 

"According to the book, the 49ers coaches merely liked Brady’s film and concluded that Brady was only marginally better than Garoppolo at that stage of both men’s careers," Maiocco wrote.

It wasn't a totally unreasonable assessment when the 49ers made it. Brady, who was 42 at the time, had his lowest completion percentage (60.8) since 2013 and fewest touchdown passes (24) since 2006. (That doesn't include the 2008 season, when Brady tore his ACL in Week 1). 

Garoppolo was 28, had just led the 49ers to a 13-3 record in his first full season as the starting quarterback, completed 69.1 percent of his passes with 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns. 

With the benefit of hindsight, it's become apparent that Brady's issues during the 2019 season was more of an indictment about the offensive skill players on New England's roster than anything to do with his ability. 

San Francisco's 2020 season fell apart quickly because of several injuries to key players, including Garoppolo. He only appeared in six games after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 2 against the New York Jets. 

Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once the 49ers passed. He threw for 5,694 yards and 50 touchdowns in 20 games between the regular season and playoffs in 2020. The Bucs defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to win Super Bowl LV.   


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