HENDERSON, Nev. — The first time Jimmy Garoppolo met Josh McDaniels? Garoppolo was on a pre-draft visit with the New England Patriots in the spring of 2014 and McDaniels, then the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, was running the quarterback through his offense on the whiteboard.
“I don’t know if it was planned, but I swear he planned it — Tom Brady walked in,” Garoppolo, laughing, said Friday. “And I thought it would throw me off a little bit because I had never met him before, and a little starstruck. But yeah, he walked out, and Josh kept going with the teaching. That was our first interaction.”
The Garoppolo-McDaniels reunion, nine years later and in Las Vegas, had been delayed a day because of some last-minute contract “language,” Garoppolo said in his 17-minute introductory news conference with the Raiders. The two sides on Monday had agreed in principle to a three-year, $67.5 million free agent deal that includes $34 million guaranteed.
Garoppolo, 31, replaces Derek Carr, who had been the Raiders starter since 2014 but was benched with two games remaining last season by McDaniels, in his first year as Raiders coach. Carr, who holds most Raiders career franchise passing records, stayed away from the team to end the season and was released on Feb. 14. He has since signed with the New Orleans Saints.
With a career regular-season record of 40-17, Garoppolo has passed for 14,289 yards and 87 touchdowns with 42 interceptions while completing 67.6% of his attempts in 74 games. He has also played in seven playoff games, going 4-2 as a starter, including a Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Still, with Garoppolo’s injury history — he missed his final five games with the San Francisco 49ers because of a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, and has played only one full season as a starter (missing 30 games in San Francisco with various ankle, shoulder, thumb and knee injuries) — speculation emerged there was an issue with his physical in Las Vegas. Sources indicated that it was not an issue.
Garoppolo said All-Pro receiver Davante Adams had already reached out to him, as had two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby while running into center Andre James in the team facility.
Garoppolo is also reuniting with receiver Phillip Dorsett, who signed with the Raiders this week; the two were briefly teammates in New England.
“He’s a winner,” Dorsett said. “Everywhere he’s been, he’s won games. I mean, I feel like that’s the most important stat for quarterbacks, just going out there and just winning and making the right plays at the right time … his record speaks for itself. He’s a guy that plays the game the right way. He goes out there, he makes the right play, he makes a smart play, and he’s a winner and I love playing with him.
“I was only with him for a little bit in New England and he left that big of an impression on me.”
Said Garoppolo: “I’m coming with the mindset that I need to earn everything — I don’t want to be given any ‘You’re the franchise guy,’ or whatever. I want to come in and earn it. I think it will come through hard work, working with the teammates, being in the facility. All those little things will play a role. But yeah, I don’t want to be given anything; I want to earn it.
“Just because I’m the quarterback, I’m not the leader because of that. I want to be the leader because guys respect me and believe in me. … I think it will happen naturally. I don’t want to force anything, be inauthentic. I just want to be myself and it’s done me well in the past.”
Garoppolo, who added he wanted to be “real and passionate,” said his familiarity with McDaniels and his scheme was a major draw, even though he last played in it six years ago. He spent the past six seasons with the 49ers after being acquired in a 2017 trade deadline deal.
As such, Garoppolo acknowledged he will have to relearn the language of the offense.
“Basically, like going Spanish to French,” he said. “It won’t take long but Josh’s offense, obviously, has evolved over the years and you’ve just got to pick it up as quickly as possible. But we’ll be fine.”
Garoppolo said he was greeted warmly by Las Vegas fans while walking through the Mandalay Bay casino with his family to have dinner at Stripsteak on Thursday night.
“The place,” he said, “was going crazy.”
Asked if he still had something to prove in his career, Garoppolo nodded.
“Hell yeah,” he said. “I’m trying to win a Super Bowl. I know every player says that when they come up to their first press conference, but that’s my goal — get a ring, get the Silver and Black back to where it should be.
“I know it’s not an easy process. I’ve been through it. In San Francisco, [the 49ers were] lower end of the field when I first got there, [so] it’s a process. But it will be worth it.”