Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Smith and Kellerman have different QB predictions for the 49ers

Feb 16, 2021 at 1:45 PM--

Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman of ESPN's First Take have different predictions on who will start at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers during the upcoming season. Kellerman often defends Jimmy Garoppolo against Smith's criticisms, so you might naturally assume that Kellerman would predict that San Francisco would avoid shaking things up. You might also assume that the critical Smith predicts that the 49ers move on from Garoppolo.

The opposite is true. Smith envisions San Francisco sticking with Garoppolo while Kellerman has another quarterback in mind to lead head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

"Me personally, I think it's going to be Jimmy G (as the 49ers' starter)," Smith declared. "That's what I believe. I believe that everybody's been talking about these other folks. The reality of the situation is that it comes down to what Max has said on numerous occasions. When [Garoppolo is] in the lineup, the San Francisco 49ers win football games. I think they're [24-9] with Jimmy G as a starter. I think that's what we're looking at here."

Smith's prediction takes Garoppolo's career 67.5 completion percentage and teammates like tight end George Kittle and cornerback Richard Sherman expressing unwavering belief in the quarterback into account.

"They believe in this guy," Smith added. "They believe, when he's healthy, he's an incredible asset to the franchise. ... [The 49ers] believe in Jimmy G. So, why go in a different direction when they've already been to a Super Bowl with this guy? I think that's their mentality, and I think as a result of that, they hold onto him and they give him a chance to move the franchise forward."

While Garoppolo has to be the odds-on favorite to be the 49ers' starting quarterback come Week 1, Kellerman has a different name in mind. No, it's not Deshaun Watson. However, he does believe that San Francisco inquiring about other quarterbacks this offseason shows that team decision-makers are at least pondering an upgrade.

"Clearly, they think they can do better," explained Kellerman. "It's out there too often. And where I look at is Atlanta because I know they would take an enormous cap hit. I mean, they'd have to restructure something with Matt Ryan. But that team should be rebuilding, and (owner) Arthur Blank has said that Matt Ryan's going to have a voice in what happens in his future. And Shanahan is there in San Francisco, where they are loaded.

"And Jimmy G is doing a good job, but maybe they feel, like the Rams felt with (Jared) Goff, they can find someone who can do a better job. Matt Ryan, maybe not what he once was — maybe they feel he's not what he once was — but maybe Shanahan looks at Matt Ryan and says, 'No, you give me that guy on this team, we've got a defense too, we're going to be just fine. We can make a Super Bowl run.'"

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