If there's an NFL quarterback who understands the difficulties and trials of the position from both ends of the spectrum, it might be Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo first experienced the awkwardness of having to back up Tom Brady for four seasons with the New England Patriots before he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers. Then Garoppolo went through the even stranger preseason dance with the 49ers a year ago over wondering when (or if) he'd be cut -- prior to coming back unexpectedly and leading San Francisco to seven wins in 10 starts.
Now that he's with the Las Vegas Raiders, Garoppolo has perspective on what changing teams can mean for a QB left in limbo, and he spent two years with Trey Lance -- who recently was traded to the Dallas Cowboys -- as a mentor of sorts and then backup with the 49ers. Garoppolo spoke with NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano on both sides of that trade and what it means for Lance, the Cowboys and their starter, Dak Prescott.
"Excited for Trey. Just a new opportunity for him," Garoppolo said on NFL Total Access in an interview that airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. "Things didn't work out in San Francisco for whatever reasons, but glad that he gets another shot, man. This league's all about opportunities, and when you get a fresh one like that, you've just got to take advantage of it.
"Everyone has their own path and everything like that. It's never going to be easy, but it's how you come out the other end of it. So I'm always excited for him, man. He's a brother of mine. Always pulling for him."
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan recently said he thought he failed Lance in San Francisco. Garoppolo wasn't about to throw his former head coach under the bus, but did seem to suggest that Shanahan's rigid system might not be great for everyone.
"I don't know how the whole thing shook out and everything," Garoppolo said. "While I was there, Kyle was gonna call the plays for you. You've just got to go up there and execute them to the best of your ability.
"Trey's a brother of mine, man, so like I said before, I'm always pulling for him. I think he's got a bright future in this league. Dude's got talent. Just got to get him out there."
Garoppolo was drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft's second round while Brady was entrenched in New England, and Garoppolo watched as the 49ers pulled off a shocking trade up in the 2021 NFL draft to take Lance with the No. 3 overall pick -- a little more than a year after Garoppolo had the Niners up 10 points in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV.
So, while the Lance trade might be good for him, it could be a bit strange for Prescott, the Cowboys' starter. And while there's no talk of Lance stealing Prescott's job suddenly, next year is a long way off -- and a lot can happen between now and then. That's the nature of the NFL, and especially at quarterback. There's always someone coming for your job, and sometimes you're asked to mentor that person coming for your job.
Still, Garoppolo isn't shedding tears for Prescott because he knows what competition has done for his game in the past.
"There's always a younger guy trying to come in, and obviously, the coaches want younger, cheaper players to do something that they think is better than you," Garoppolo said. "But that's what makes this league so great, man. It pushes you.
"Having to train whoever it was the Niners drafted, that was gonna push me and make me a better player, and I came out better on the other end from it. So I think it's all about perspective. You've gotta realize where you rank in this whole thing and just what an opportunity this is to be in the NFL, to be an NFL quarterback. It's not easy, but you've gotta love it, man."