Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Louis Riddick sees Jimmy Garoppolo holding onto 49ers’ starting job and competing for a Super Bowl -- if he stays healthy

Jun 16, 2021 at 11:04 AM--

During ESPN's First Take, Louis Riddick weighed in on the quarterback situation for the San Francisco 49ers. He fully expects Jimmy Garoppolo to start Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, remain the starter, and play well throughout the 2021 season ... with one caveat. The veteran quarterback must do something he hasn't been able to do throughout his career — stay healthy.

Injuries sidelined Garoppolo for 23 games over the last three seasons. He missed 10 games last season. The quarterback has only once made it out of September injury-free during a season in which he started. That was the 2019 campaign that saw Garoppolo coming off an ACL injury from the previous year.

If Garoppolo can remain in the lineup, Riddick feels that he will respond well to the challenge of having a rookie quarterback waiting in the wings. Trey Lance was the No. 3 overall pick, though, so expect head coach Kyle Shanahan to utilize him in some fashion this season, even with Garoppolo as the starter. Lance has not had any in-game reps since October 3, 2020, his only appearance last season. He'll need to get some experience.

"But I just see Jimmy G really responding to this," Riddick said. "He has the right DNA. He was brought up in the NFL the right way. I think he'll play some of his best football."

However, Riddick acknowledges that, given the quarterback's history, the odds are against Garoppolo staying healthy for 17 games. He feels there is a strong possibility that Lance may be forced to play by mid-season.

"And if he does, I think you're going to see why they drafted him No. 3 overall," Riddick said, "because having seen this kid up close — stood right next to him, talked to him — this kid's a freak in every sense of the word. That's nothing but compliments I'm giving him. He's a freak, and there's a reason why Kyle (Shanahan) and the rest of the people in San Francisco are excited. And everyone else is going to be too when they fully unleash him on the NFL."

Monica McNutt asked Riddick if he feels, in an ideal situation, that Garoppolo holds off Lance for the entire season. After all, San Francisco traded a lot of future draft capital to move up to select Lance.

"I think that he'll stay the starter as long as he stays healthy," Riddick responded. "I think Jimmy will respond to this challenge. He will be a professional because that's what he's always been. And this football team, as it's presently constructed, will be right there in contention for the NFC title and then for a Super Bowl berth. I believe that wholeheartedly. I've always been a big believer in Jimmy."

Riddick adds that the 49ers have the luxury of being patient with Lance's development because of Garoppolo being on the roster.

"[Lance is] going to play, hopefully, 10, 12, 15 years in San Francisco," Riddick comments. "There's no rush to put him in there. And if Jimmy can provide that kind of stability and allow them to take their time ... it's the ideal model."

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