Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

PFF: Why 49ers keeping Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t mean a lack of faith in Trey Lance

Sep 9, 2022 at 8:59 AM--

If you don't follow the San Francisco 49ers daily and are on the outside looking in, it's easy to view the team bringing back quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as lacking faith in Trey Lance. However, for those who followed the offseason quarterback drama more closely, there is less concern.

It's tough to escape opinion after opinion that the 49ers seem less committed to Lance than they would have been had they traded or released Garoppolo. Understandably, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus believes that Lance's leash is shorter with a proven winner like Garoppolo on the sideline. Still, he feels the 49ers will stick with their 22-year-old quarterback barring any injury, and the goal remains to trade Garoppolo if a quarterback need arises elsewhere in the NFL.

So why did the 49ers hold onto Garoppolo? Aside from the obvious—feeling a trade scenario might develop before the November 1 trade deadline—the team likely wanted to keep Garoppolo out of the hands of a division rival. Releasing the quarterback would have allowed him to sign anywhere.

"Two of the most logical landing spots for Garoppolo were the Seattle Seahawks (where he could have competed with Geno Smith and Drew Lock for the starting job) and Los Angeles Rams (where he could have backed up Matthew Stafford)," wrote Kyed, "and it would make sense that the 49ers wouldn't want to release him with the possibility that he would sign with a divisional rival. So, they made the situation work with a restructured contract."

It was just how things worked out and not necessarily a lack of faith in Lance. If the 49ers didn't trust the young quarterback to be their starter, they wouldn't have been trying to trade Garoppolo all offseason.

"But if Lance struggles and an awkward situation ensues with Garoppolo as his backup, it's an unfortunate consequence of how the offseason shook out," Kyed adds. "I know the 49ers still like Garoppolo and believe they could compete with him as their starting quarterback with their current system and playmakers in place. But I also know they believe Lance has much higher upside than Garoppolo."

On Friday morning, head coach Kyle Shanahan shared his thoughts on the outside perception of the quarterback situation.

"Guys, this is Trey's first year starting for us," Shanahan said on KNBR. "We were letting go of a $24 million starting quarterback to do that. We got him back for a backup price. I don't think that has to do with not having faith in your starter. That never would have happened if it just didn't come to fruition there. We were very fortunate that happened. So we obviously were willing to go a different direction, and we ended up having something fall into our lap."
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