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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Jimmy Garoppolo Conundrum, and why the 49ers are in no hurry to change

Chris Beno
Nov 30, 2021 at 8:40 AM--

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Life with Jimmy Garoppolo as the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback is nothing short of a roller coaster ride. With the highs and lows that come with Garoppolo under center, fans are constantly battling mixed emotions about the signal-caller. Of course, fans like him, but many expect more from the $27 million passer. After all, a top paid player should give a higher level of production, right?

I personally feel that there's such a wide range of emotions because Garoppolo's stats don't tell the full story. All anyone talks about is Garoppolo's 30-12 record as an NFL starter. The win-loss record is and always will be a team statistic, not a quarterback statistic. On paper, Garoppolo is fine. However, watching the games with my eyes tell me something else. From Week 8 to Week 11 this season, Garoppolo has had the highest quarterback rating in the NFL at 117.3 and also leads the league in yards per attempt. Here's what head coach Kyle Shanahan had to say about Garoppolo's league-leading statistics in a Week 12 post-game presser:

"Yes, he's playing very well right now," Shanahan said. "And our whole team is, so usually with those guys, everything feeds off each other, especially when you go into ratings. You're put in some more positions when you're running the ball well. And I think our receivers have gotten a lot better. I think our receivers just as a whole and our tight ends and our running backs as a group are playing better now in this last month than they did. Much better than they did earlier. And obviously, when that stuff happens, usually the quarterback will too. So, it's such a team sport with that stuff. And Jimmy, I do think is getting better each week. But also, the guys around them have a big deal with that too."

In the span of a single game, fans will see the many faces of Jimmy Garoppolo. This was especially the case in the Week 12 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. Garoppolo started the game sluggish, missing passes high, having happy feet in a clean pocket, and forcing passes into the middle of the field. One of those passes was an interception to safety Harrison Smith, which put the 49ers down early in the game. Shanahan confronted Garoppolo on the sidelines following the costly turnover.

"I just told him the obvious, what he missed," Shanahan shared. "I told him to let it go, and we're going to come right back to you, and we need you to be aggressive for the rest of the game. And he was, and handled it right."

Following the game, Garoppolo was asked about the interception and if Shanahan was "pissed off" about it.

"Naturally. It wasn't a good decision," Garoppolo responded. "I've got to be better than that with it. Just take the check-down. They were giving those to us early, and I just need to be more efficient with those."

Garoppolo turned it around and finished the game 17 of 26 for 230 yards, one touchdown, and one interception for a passer rating of 90.2. Most importantly, Garoppolo helped lead the team to a much-needed victory to vault them into the 6th seed in the NFC. After all, that is why the team stuck with Garoppolo, right? To win now.

The 49ers already drafted Garoppolo's replacement in rookie quarterback Trey Lance. Since then, outside of a Week 5 start due to a Garoppolo injury, Lance has only been seen on the sidelines, helmet on, waiting for his chance. Prior to this recent stretch of games, Garoppolo wasn't exactly lighting the league on fire with his play, which has led many fans to question this front office plan to develop the young star. Of course, that decision looks a little easier with the team stringing together wins and doing so in a dominating fashion.

But make no mistake, the team is simply delaying Lance's development. If people think he's going to hit the ground running next season, they are mistaken. Lance will just go through his rookie pains in year two, barring a Super Bowl appearance, which is inexcusable for a team that used three first-round picks, and a third-round pick to move up in the draft to select the young quarterback.

In a perfect world, Garoppolo is increasing his trade value for this upcoming offseason. Whether or not that actually happens seems like a bit of a stretch, but that doesn't matter. The team is winning. As long as they keep winning, the 49ers are ok with riding things out with him under center.

NFL insider Ian Rappaport spoke on NFL Gameday Morning on Sunday about the 49ers' plan for Garoppolo.

"Absent a Super Bowl run, which at this point is still theoretically possible, this is the 49ers' plan next season: start Trey Lance, trade Jimmy Garoppolo," Rapoport said via "Not a surprise there, they've been pretty up front about that. What Garoppolo is doing now is increasing the value of picks the 49ers get in a trade involving him, and they make it more likely that a place he wants to go would want to take him."

I may be alone here, but I do not see a market for Jimmy Garoppolo via trade this offseason. Not too many teams have the money to afford Garoppolo's $27 million salary due in 2022 if he is traded. Plus, if the 49ers' plan is to go with Trey Lance next year anyway, why would a team trade at all? Just wait until the 49ers release Garoppolo. Unless a team is desperate and is hell-bent on getting Garoppolo, a trade makes no sense to me. The prime time to move him was before the season started.

To make matters even more bizarre, the team hasn't closed the door yet on keeping Garoppolo next season. Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch already got approval from CEO Jed York on keeping Garoppolo for multiple seasons while Lance develops from the sidelines.

Everyone saw how years of mental reps have helped Green Bay Packers 2020 first-round quarterback Jordan Love when he stepped in for Aaron Rodgers in Week 9, where he accumulated an abysmal quarterback rating of 30. In comparison, Garoppolo's worst rating this season was in Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts, where he earned a rating of 60.9, in what many believed was Garoppolo's last start as a 49er. Had it not been for Trey Lance dealing with a nagging knee injury, it very well could've been.

There is no replacement for live reps. Sure, players get reps in practice, some at full speed. But when you're a backup player, your reps are limited. I would be willing to bet that Garoppolo requires even more reps to get ready for game day, which is likely why fans haven't seen any Trey Lance packages since early on in the season. There just aren't enough reps to go around, especially when your starting quarterback needs as many as possible to manage the game.

The 49ers are leaning heavily on the run game as of late, and there isn't much about the game plan that Trey Lance shouldn't be able to handle. But I get it. It's working. Don't stray from the formula that is winning you games. Finding ways to get Lance involved should still be a priority for the team.

To question the development of Lance is still a valid concern for fans. But as long as the 49ers keep winning, it will remain a bridge to cross once they get to it. There is nothing wrong with looking ahead beyond this season, but it would be nice if the team showed a little more urgency in doing that.

For now, the 49ers seem to be ok with this Jimmy Garoppolo conundrum. Garoppolo is doing just enough to keep his job and is stringing together wins along the way. If the team sticks to its identity, there's a chance that this all pans out.
  • Chris Beno
  • Written by:
    Coming from Elk Grove, California I grew up a Bay Area sports fan. I've been cheering for the 49ers for as long as I can remember. In 2005 I joined the Army when I was 18 and got stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I just kind of hung around here. I've always enjoyed writing and have typically focus on writing music. I am truly blessed to get to cover the 49ers, and have my articles published on the 49ers Webzone. I appreciate all of the Faithful that take the time to read the articles that myself and other contributors put out there. The 49ers have without a doubt the best fanbase, and best content creators around.
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.

1 Comment

  • William
    Chris, you have overlooked the very high possibility that Jimmy gets injured again, thus giving Lance more starts, perhaps this time continuing. I think Shanahan is sort of counting on that, kind of solves his problems in the most diplomatic way.
    Nov 30, 2021 at 11:59 AM

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