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Rosenthal: Don’t be surprised if Jimmy Garoppolo is the 49ers backup come Week 1

Aug 5, 2021 at 8:52 AM--

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The Trey Lance Hype Train is getting awfully crowded thanks to an impressive training camp so far and some help from excited fans and media. The San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback is slated to be Jimmy Garoppolo's backup come Week 1, allowing him more time to study and master the playbook. Although, his recent practice performances have many wondering if Lance, not Garoppolo, is the quarterback who can better frustrate opposing defenses this season.

The narrative coming out of Santa Clara has remained constant. Garoppolo is the guy — for now. General manager John Lynch recently spoke to ESPN's Adam Schefter and praised the veteran quarterback.

"Jimmy's a big-time competitor," Lynch said, "and we haven't played a game yet, but in practice in the offseason and practice in training camp thus far, he's played his best football since he's been here, and he's played a lot of good football. Just look at his record."

At least one 49ers beat writer who has watched every practice isn't buying what Lynch is selling and feels Garoppolo is neither looking at his best nor worst. Still, the quarterback may remain the best option for the 49ers — again, for now.

"Garoppolo is still looking like a quarterback in better command of a complex offense," wrote Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group, "one who remains a vocal leader on the field, one who looks like he's enjoying himself when not throwing the occasional stinker pass, and one who knows his successor is lurking in a shrinking shadow."

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL Media would not be shocked to see Lance overtake Garoppolo soon. Maybe as soon as Week 1. He notes another quote from Lynch's interview with Schefter.

"People say, 'Well, what do you do if they're both playing great?'" Lynch added. "That's another great problem to have, and we'll deal with that when it comes."

Rosenthal believes that problem is coming soon and that training camp is more about determining how quickly Lance can develop than Garoppolo's play. The 49ers already decided on Garoppolo's future when they decided to trade up and draft his successor. It's only a matter of time.

"This month is about whether Lance develops quickly enough to start Week 1 and nothing else," wrote Rosenthal. "All reports indicate he's on schedule or ahead of it."

What would that mean for Garoppolo this season? If the 49ers can't find a trade partner, and they may not be able to this late in the offseason because of the quarterback's salary, Garoppolo could become a $25 million insurance policy.

"Whether Garoppolo starts in Week 1 or not likely depends on Lance's preseason," Rosenthal comments. "If the rookie can transfer his early practice success to the games, Garoppolo shapes up as the most expensive backup in football. At this stage, that strategy makes more sense than trading him."

If that's how things play out, it would add some security behind the 49ers' rookie quarterback — albeit costly security. However, the cost remains the same whether Garoppolo starts ahead of Lance or Lance ahead of Garoppolo.

"Entering the season with both Lance and Garoppolo offers them the best chance to make it to the finish line without having to play backups Nate Sudfeld or Josh Rosen," Rosenthal adds. "Just don't be surprised if Garoppolo is the backup in this equation as early as Week 1."

The increasing hype surrounding the exciting rookie quarterback, Lance, makes it difficult for everyone to completely dismiss the possibility that Lance, not Garoppolo, is taking that first snap with the 49ers in Detroit on September 12.


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