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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo’s Injury Risk Should Relegate Him to 49ers QB2

Brian Renick
Aug 21, 2021 at 1:12 PM

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The 49ers concluded joint practices with the Los Angeles Chargers on Friday, and there is still a game to play against them on Sunday, but it feels like we learned a fair amount about the "non" QB competition over those two days.

Thursday, multiple media members covering the 49ers reported that some Chargers defenders were laughing at Jimmy Garoppolo after a bit of poor play to end practice. In the press conference following that practice, Kyle Shanahan said he would review the film, and then determine if Trey Lance would get some time with the 1st string offense the following day. On Friday, Lance did indeed get some time, and the highlight of that time was a designed run in which Lance gained 25+ yards and may have broken it for a TD in a game situation.

Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel are absolute wizards when it comes to scheming up the run game, and I think Shanahan can't wait to unleash Trey Lance in that scheme to take it to another level. It is this floor that Lance offers, his value in the run game, that I believe gives him the edge over Jimmy Garoppolo in any QB competition.

Lance's performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first preseason game was a mixed bag. There was the obvious highlight-reel 80-yard touchdown pass (Jimmy Garoppolo's longest TD in his professional career is 76 yards) to Trent Sherfield, but Lance only completed 5 of his 14 pass attempts. He was hurt by some drops from his receivers, but he also had two would-be interceptions dropped by Chiefs defenders when he forced a couple of throws into tight coverage. He also took four sacks, which was largely the result of poor pass protection from the 2nd string o-line, however, one of the sacks was on Lance as he missed his wide-open outlet on a blitz from K.C.

If, or rather when, Lance does start during the regular season, he is going to commit rookie mistakes. There is no way around that. Those mistakes will likely result in turnovers and unnecessary sacks that will kill drives. However, those types of rookie mistakes are also committed by the man he is competing against for the QB1 position.

Garoppolo has a career 2.7% interception rate. That was his exact percentage in 2019 as well, the best season of his career. For comparison, Justin Herbert, QB1 for the Chargers team the 49ers practiced against over the past two days, had an interception rate of 1.7% in 2020, which just so happened to be his rookie season. Not only that, but Herbert also tossed 31 touchdowns, which is only 20 fewer than Garoppolo has for his entire career.

Garoppolo is a seasoned veteran, and by all accounts has had a fine camp, but it has been obvious to all that Lance offers so much more to this offense with his physical skill set alone. Garoppolo should have been able to make it easy to confirm his status as QB1 through his play during camp, but unfortunately for him, the two QBs have been pretty even. In my opinion, if the two quarterbacks continue to perform at even levels throughout the rest of camp, the edge should go to the rookie.

Because of what he provides in the run game.

The 49ers only have three quarterbacks remaining in camp after parting ways with Josh Rosen. Shanahan has been asked if he will carry three QBs on the 53-man roster during the season and has been non-committal in his answer. The current makeup of the roster, with depth issues along the offensive line, the defensive secondary, and the receiving corps makes carrying a third QB less than ideal.

If the 49ers only carry Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance on the 53-man, Garoppolo's injury history makes it a scary proposition to name him QB1. He has played more than ten games exactly one time in his career, during the 2019 season, so it's hard to bank on him doing so again. If Garoppolo goes down with an injury, then Lance gets pushed into a starting role with Nate Sudfeld as his backup. That's not ideal, especially with the inherent injury risk Lance carries as a weapon in the run game.

However, if Lance takes over the QB1 position, the 49ers will have arguably the best QB2 in the NFL. Garoppolo obviously makes quite a bit more money than anybody would like for a backup QB, but that is a sunk cost already, there's no reason to fixate on it. Lance's use in the run game will open himself up to injury more than a traditional pocket QB, so having Garoppolo in the wings if he goes down is a much brighter prospect than Nate Sudfeld.

Outside of the risk on the field, there are future implications as well. Carrying Garoppolo as the QB2 for a full season isn't worth his current salary, but it would insulate him from injury and allow the team the opportunity to find a trade partner in the offseason. He has started an NFL game in five different seasons during his career and has gone down with an injury in three of those seasons. If he starts this season as QB1 and goes down with an injury, he will likely lose all trade value and the team will simply have to release him after the season (unless the injury is so severe that it triggers his $7.5 million partial injury guarantee, which would be the worst-case scenario).

For the long-term future of the franchise, the 49ers should relegate Jimmy Garoppolo to QB2.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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  • MIdloco E.
    I like Shanahan and would not trade him for most coaches in the league. With that said, he is manipulative and arrogant. Coach has this way of blaming quietly, without actually pointing his finger. Jimmy is who he is, not a statue but not a mobile athlete. Shanahan and Lynch both knew this from the beginning, both failed Jimmy in regards to providing a stable O line. Sorry but Staley was getting his arse kicked in Pass Pro the last 3 years of his career, Mc Flinchy is a bust and will never seem to learn Pass Pro, just watch. Aside from Jimmy's poor judgment with the sideline ACL injury, any QB could have and probably would have been injured behind those lines. How do I qualify my statements you may ask. I will challenge anyone to name a 49er QB in the last 3 years that actually had significant play time of coarse, that stayed healthy, CJ?.. nope, Mullens?.. nope. Younger, stronger, more flexible, more durable, tougher, higher IQ are all attributes that to varying degrees had been applied to either or both Mullens and CJ, yet both ended up injured. I would love for Shanahan to just 1 time acknowledge this simple fact, it would totally change my view of him but who am I?
    Aug 22, 2021 at 8:43 AM
  • dbrower
    It Lynch and Shanahan had wanted a QB that could run, they should have kept Kap. They don't really care about that threat, so I doubt that will factor in to any decisions.
    Aug 21, 2021 at 10:57 PM
  • BW
    Trey Lance's inaccuracy, slow reads, and poor decisions will eventually cost Shanahan his job. They drafted the wrong QB. Garopollo needs to take a page from Brady and learn to get rid of the ball quicker to avoid injury.
    Aug 21, 2021 at 10:42 PM
  • matt hu
    After that, nothing you say means anything
    Aug 21, 2021 at 7:30 PM
  • Rob
    Predicting the future can be useful. Facial recognition combined with artificial intelligence technology and big data analytics tells me your a candidate to embark on massive evil one man crime wave. You should stay home alone wearing a Covid mask and keep away from all keyboards.
    Aug 21, 2021 at 5:02 PM
  • Nick
    It's a good thing you're not in charge of this team, Jimmy Garoppolo is so hard to beat.... He's healthy, Kyle Shanahan would be fired if it wasn't for Jimmy G..... When Jimmy g, raheem, and Samuel all play they move the chains dominate the clock and will never lose....
    Aug 21, 2021 at 4:16 PM
  • Dave
    1) Lance has never threw more than 18 passes in a game 2) He has never ran a true 2 minute drill 3) He has already showed that he is struggling BADLY with situational football. 11 on 11 is one thing, Doing it in front of 80k in Seattle is a whole diff ballgame. SF was a Superbowl favorite BEFORE! Lance was even drafted, So now you want to put that kind of pressure on a kid who is one of the rawest prospects in years, Say they start hot and then you just want to start Lance just because???? How do you think the locker room would take that??? Football doesnt work that way. The 49ers are not the Jets or Jags. The fanboy pants down romance with the SF media is obnoxious at best for a kid who hasn't done a single thing when it really counts. If Jimmy gets hurt ( of course possible) OK let him rip but plan to let Jimmy play well and get back picks AFTER the season is best hope.
    Aug 21, 2021 at 2:25 PM


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