By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia should know a thing or two about Jimmy Garoppolo and his offensive capabilities.
As the former defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, Patricia matched up against Garoppolo on a weekly basis in Foxborough when Garoppolo served as the Patriots scout-team quarterback.
Now, as Patricia prepares for his second game as an NFL head coach, he will face his former practice foe in Garoppolo, now at the head of the San Francisco 49ers, and tasked with defeating his old coach’s defense rather than prepare it.
“I obviously know Jimmy really well.” Patricia said this week via a conference call with local media. “I like him and we’re really close. Obviously with our time in New England, he did a phenomenal job for me every single day.”
During their time together in the Patriots organization between 2014 and 2016, New England boasted a 38-10 record, winning two Super Bowls (2014 and 2016).
Over the course of those three seasons, Garoppolo was tasked with backing up future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady while also simulating opposing offensive schemes as a scout team quarterback.
By spending that copious amount of time on the field together, Patricia says it gave him an opportunity to really see how special Garoppolo could be as a player.
“You could see right away with his ability to run the show teams and his ability to recognize defenses and some of the things that we were doing and be able to create plays,” Patricia said. “He had a certain skill set that was pretty tough to defend against.”
Garoppolo was dealt to the 49ers midway through their 2017 campaign for a 2018 second-round pick, and led San Francisco to a 5-0 finish to an otherwise forgettable season.
“When he had his opportunity, he took it and ran,” Patricia said. “Even going back to preseason games when we would see him when he would go in, he just had this whole other game day sort of gear that was pretty special.”
One week into the 2018 season, both Garoppolo’s 49ers and Patricia’s Lions are 0-1, but each are coming off of very different kinds of losses.
San Francisco faced a potential Super Bowl contender in the Minnesota Vikings, who trotted out one of the league’s best defenses to hand the 49ers an eight-point loss at U.S. Bank stadium.
In the Lion’s case, a 48-17 home shellacking courtesy the openly-rebuilding New York Jets was not the ideal opener for Patricia and his crew.
Garoppolo says he’s prepared to see some different things from what he’s seen in the past.
“There’s a couple of little things you remember from over the years and stuff,” Garoppolo admitted. “But, Matty P’s a smart coach and I’m sure they’ll have something game planned for us … They’re talented. Matty P, they’re a game-plan team. They’re good at every level. We’ll have to come out with a good mindset.”