Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“The more mad Jimmy gets, usually, the better he gets”: 49ers’ Shanahan and Lynch discuss Garoppolo’s future

Mar 29, 2021 at 2:02 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers shocked the NFL world by pulling off a massive trade moving from the No. 12 overall pick up to No. 3 in next month's NFL Draft. It is clear that the team is targeting a quarterback to—at some point—replace current starter Jimmy Garoppolo. It remains a mystery who that might be.

Up until that point, team brass had verbally committed to Garoppolo being the quarterback in 2021, with the caveat that NFL rosters are always fluid. Garoppolo could very well remain with the 49ers through the upcoming season. That's the impression that head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch gave while speaking with reporters on Monday.

The two tried to keep Garoppolo abreast of the situation leading to the franchise- and draft-altering move.

"We both spoke to Jimmy (on Friday)," Lynch said. "Kyle did right away, and then I did later in the day. ... The message was what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how he is very much still a part of our plans. ... Jimmy, he welcomes competition."

Shanahan said he tried to be as open and honest with his quarterback as possible.

"I had a good conversation with him," Shanahan said. "Obviously, no one wants to hear that. I know he wasn't totally excited about it, like you'd expect. But Jimmy handled it great, like he always does. We were very straight-up with each other, and I told him how we felt.

"This doesn't change any of his circumstances right now. He's still coming in here, trying to lead this team. I told him how excited I was that free agency went a lot better than we anticipated, with being able to sign a lot more of our own players than we had thought going into it. And that we've got a real good team coming back here.

"We still plan on him leading us and getting as far as we can with him."

That free agency success may have influenced the 49ers' decision to pull off the trade. Despite the salary-cap challenges, the team was able to keep much of its roster together. San Francisco re-signed key free agents like Trent Williams and Kyle Juszczyk. The team was able to bring back others like Jason Verrett and K'Waun Williams.

The moves provided the team with the option to keep Garoppolo and draft for the future rather than fill in key gaps left by free-agency departures.

"That probably crystallized as free agency, in our minds, went well," Lynch said. "That [doing both] could be a possibility because I think, at one point, if we're going to do this, then does it make sense? Then ultimately, that's where we arrived at.

"I think you try to keep a lot of balls in the air, try to see what your options are, but one thing (that's) consistent: We've been pleased with Jimmy. We know we can win with Jimmy. And then, ultimately, we arrived at this deal after free agency—that if we're going to move up, let's do both. And I think that became something that was more viable in our minds once free agency went as we feel, in our hearts, in a positive direction for us."

Garoppolo's availability during his tenure with San Francisco has forced many to question his durability. While the quarterback is 24-9 as a starter—including the playoffs—he missed 10 games last season due to ankle injuries and has missed 23 games over the past three seasons.

"You hope to be competing to get into the playoffs every single year, which is the ultimate deal to give you a chance at the Super Bowl," Shanahan said. "That's your goal every year. The more you look into this league, especially our four years here, it's very hard to succeed when your starting quarterback doesn't stay healthy or if you don't have one of those true starting quarterbacks.

"We've gotten that with Jimmy. He's played at a very high level when he's played. It's been tough the two years he's missed. It's been hard to compete the same way, so we knew we had to look into that this year ... We were hoping to get a younger guy in here eventually, and to look at this year, to where we feel we had a chance to do it, we were excited about it."

Lynch added that the 49ers went to ownership, armed with some added salary-cap flexibility, and pitched the idea of keeping Garoppolo and making a big move in the draft.

Said Lynch: "We went to ownership, said, 'Hey, things are looking good. We'd like to make this move, but we also don't want to say goodbye to Jimmy. We think with Jimmy, we've shown we can get to a Super Bowl with him. We can play at a high level. And we don't think those two things have to be mutually exclusive.'"

A talented rookie waiting in the wings could light a fire under Garoppolo to prove his worth, fully knowing that the upcoming season might be an audition for other organizations or a prove-it year to the 49ers. If he goes out and performs at a high level, it will create an interesting decision for San Francisco.

"I'm sure Jimmy was a little pissed off from it, just like I would be too," Shanahan added. "But me knowing Jimmy, he'll be fired up and come in, and he'll work his butt off. Knowing Jimmy, the more mad Jimmy gets, usually, the better he gets. If Jimmy just gets madder, and he stays healthy, this is going to be a good thing for Jimmy too, which could be a great problem for the 49ers.

"I hope Jimmy's alright with it, and I expect him to be. And I'm excited to have him come in here and see what he's been doing when he was away."

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