Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

John Lynch says Jimmy Garoppolo embracing the competition after 49ers draft Trey Lance

May 3, 2021 at 11:38 AM--

Keeping a veteran quarterback while drafting his eventual replacement isn't a new idea. The San Francisco 49ers did that last week with the selection of Trey Lance of North Dakota State. They also intend to keep Jimmy Garoppolo, their starter since 2017, around.

The Kansas City Chiefs did it with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes. The 49ers did it with Smith and Colin Kaepernick. The Green Bay Packers did it with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. It's a solid blueprint that allows a rookie to more easily transition from the college game to the pros, especially when thrown into an offense as complex as head coach Kyle Shanahan's.

"First and foremost, Jimmy's really good," general manager John Lynch said this morning on KNBR's Murph & Mac show. "He's a really solid, talented football player. And it goes beyond just being talented. When he's played, he's won at a high level, and the one year he's a starter, we ended up in the Super Bowl and ended up really close to coming away with that win. So, we have a ton of respect for Jimmy, his abilities, and what he does for our team, and how he fits in our culture. And I'm very grateful, as is Kyle, and everybody involved, with his contributions."

Ultimately, the decision to find a quarterback of the future wasn't due to dissatisfaction in Garoppolo's level of play. It was based on his availability — or lack of availability. Lynch and Shanahan made that bluntly clear to their quarterback. Garoppolo has missed 23 games over the past three seasons, leading to losing records in the two where he sat out most of the games. The team needed a long-term answer.

"It's a shame that the biggest reason (for drafting a quarterback) was that Jimmy struggled to stay healthy in his time here," Lynch added. "Hopefully, that changes for him, but ultimately, you look at it and say, 'What's the best situation?'"

That's when Lynch and Shanahan decided to try to have the best of both worlds — keeping Garoppolo and drafting Lance.

"The best thing to do is play the guy, the rookie, when he's ready to play, not to feel forced to play him because you don't have another solution," Lynch said.

The 49ers are in a unique situation. They have a roster that is ready to win now. That isn't typically the case for teams at the top of the draft. San Francisco traded to get into that spot after an injury-plagued 2020 campaign resulted in just six wins.

Garoppolo probably was not happy with the decision to draft his replacement, but he has been professional about the situation. The veteran was the first 49ers player to reach out to Lance after the pick was announced and welcome the incoming rookie.

"[I]t meant the world to me and my family, especially, that he reached out to me and sent that message," Lance said last week. "It was really encouraging for me just to know that we'll be able to have an awesome relationship. And I just told him I'm super excited to learn from him."

That doesn't mean there won't be a competition between the two. Lance is eager to play. Garoppolo wants to hold onto the starting job.

"We'll play [Lance] when he's ready to play," Lynch shared. "We communicated with Jimmy, and Jimmy felt comfortable. Jimmy embraces the competition. He was involved in a situation in New England where I think Tom (Brady) was really good to him, and he learned a lot from him. And so, I think he's kind of embracing that part of it as well."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Lynch below.

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