Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers mailbag: Will 49ers sign a big-name QB? Who will Ryans take to Houston? Who will replace Ryans? Will Garoppolo return?

Marc Adams
Feb 1, 2023 at 9:58 AM--

There's not much going on with the San Francisco 49ers. Not unless you count these small bits of news:

  • Brock Purdy has a UCL tear and will likely need surgery. If they can repair the tendon, he'll need six months of recovery time (which is August). If they have to replace it (Tommy John surgery), it will be decidedly longer.
  • Trey Lance says he is three to four weeks from being cleared to practice, and that he should be 100% by OTAs (organized team activities).
  • Trent Williams was walking with a crutch on Tuesday (locker cleanout day) and had a walking boot on. But he said it's nothing.
  • DeMeco Ryans was hired to be the next head coach of the Houston Texans.
  • Tom Brady announced his retirement Wednesday morning, so those hoping he would end his career in San Francisco will have to move on. (And no, the 49ers are not trading for Aaron Rodgers.)

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are scheduled to meet with the media today. We, of course, will have all of that for you later today.

Let's get to the final in-season mailbag. Don't worry, we'll still have mailbags throughout the offseason. We won't leave you to survive on your own.

How many times do we have to go through this? - Chris W.

Chris is asking how many times 49ers fans have to suffer through these brutal, late postseason losses. It's torture to lose games in the playoffs. The deeper you go in the postseason, the more it hurts when you lose. Of course, we all want to win a sixth Super Bowl. But on the brighter side of it, would you rather lose in the NFC Championship Game, or would you rather be 8-9, and not even make it into the postseason?

I know it sucks to lose, but it was fun beating the Seahawks and the Cowboys. Those are my two most-hated teams, by the way. Although the horrible Eagles fanbase has made them a close third.

Injuries to a team's starting quarterback is bad Luck. But injuries to all four QB's on the same roster? Something seems suspicious and my mind blames coach/playcalling/bad luck. What is your take on that? - Manny V.

Well, let's break down the major 49ers' QB injuries since 2018. For the sake of this very scientific experiment, we'll lump coach and playcalling both in Kyle Shanahan's lap, since he's the coach and play-caller. Clever, huh?

  • Jimmy Garoppolo - 2018 (torn ACL): Injured while running down the sideline and trying to get more yardage rather than going out of bounds. Blame: Bad luck (or Garoppolo for not getting out of bounds).
  • Garoppolo - 2020 (high ankle sprain): Injured two different times while being pressured. Blame: Offensive line (and bad luck).
  • Garoppolo - 2021 (thumb injury): Injured while being sacked. Blame: Bad luck (or the offensive line.)
  • Garoppolo - 2021 postseason (Shoulder injury): Injured while being taken down by a defensive player. Blame: Offensive line (and bad luck).
  • Trey Lance - 2022 (broken ankle): Injured while running a QB keeper up the middle. Blame: Kyle Shanahan (and bad luck).
  • Garoppolo - 2022 (fractured foot): Injured while being sacked. Blame: Offensive line (and bad luck).
  • Brock Purdy - 2022 postseason (UCL tear): Injured while being hit on the arm while throwing a pass. Blame: Shanahan, and bad luck (I don't like having a backup tight end block one of the league's premiere pass rushers, but it's also very rare to have this kind of injury to a QB).

To me, it looks more like bad luck than anything, with the offensive line a close second. But I think the blame can be spread around in each situation. It's easy to second-guess, but clearly, the 49ers have been cursed by the football gods as payback for having back-to-back Hall of Famers at the position (Joe Montana and Steve Young), followed by a 4-time Pro Bowler (Jeff Garcia).

If it's Tommy John - do they go with Trey or bring in someone to "maybe" start? Brady? Carr? - DoctorWDS

It won't be Brady (see my dramatic opening). Another Carr in San Francisco? While I'd prefer Derek over David, I'd rather the team stick with Lance and Purdy. And I think that's what they'll do. Lance will be the guy until Purdy is ready to play (unless Lance shows he's ready and doesn't give Purdy the job back), and they will probably sign a veteran to be the backup.

How aggressive will this team be in trying to get a big-name QB in the offseason after what happened yesterday? - Adrian A.

I don't believe they will go after a big-name QB. If Brady was interested, maybe they would have entertained that. But I think they're happy with Lance and Purdy, and will build around them.

If Vic Fangio gets the DC job, do you think Kris Kocurek will remain with the 49ers? Would they fit together scheme-wise? - Aris A.

Regardless of who gets the defensive coordinator job, Kris Kocurek will be retained. He's the best defensive line coach in the NFL. That would certainly be part of the interview, which coaches he would keep, and which coaches he would want to bring with him.

Unless Kocurek gets a defensive coordinator position somewhere else, he will almost certainly be staying with the 49ers. But I've heard he has no interest in being a coordinator.

Who's on the short list for DC if Demeco leaves? - Niners Guys

Whom can you see replacing Demeco Ryans when he inevitability leaves for a HC job? - Garry H.

There were a number of people who asked about who the 49ers might hire as defensive coordinator now that Ryans has departed for Houston.

I asked around at 49ers Webzone. One of our writers, Rohan Chakravarthi, sent this to me:

"The obvious choice is Vic Fangio, especially with the way this weekend has gone about with the Miami Dolphins, as well as his past with both the team and the Shanahans. They've requested Chris Harris, as well. The internal options are led by young safeties coach Daniel Bullocks and potentially secondary coach Cory Undlin could be in the mix, as well."

To me, Fangio would be the best hire. Not only is he a great defensive coordinator, but he's not likely to be in the running for head coaching positions again. This means the 49ers wouldn't be in this same position two years from now. That would be a huge benefit to the 49ers.

Here are some other names that could be considered:

  • Kris Richard, Saints DB coach
  • Brian Flores, Steelers senior defensive assistant, and linebackers coach
  • Steve Wilks, Panthers interim head coach
  • Joe Woods, Browns DC

If you'd like to keep up with who the 49ers have reached out to, here's an updated defensive coordinator tracker.

Who on the coaching staff or players does Demeco Ryans take with him to Houston? Who do we hire internally/externally to fill those voids? - Jeff R.

Matt Barrows, of the Athletic, said he's heard names like, Bobby Slowik (SF passing game coordinator), Stephen Adegoke (defensive quality control), and Andrew Hayes-Stoker (defensive quality control). He also added, "If I were Ryans, I'd tap defensive line assistant, Darryl Tapp."

I would hate for the 49ers to lose Slowik. He's a young, sharp offensive mind. I'd also hate to lose Tapp. His intensity is great for a defensive line, and he's one that will be moving up the coaching ranks soon.

I also wonder if Ryans might try to take Anthony Lynn with him. I don't think so, but it's another name to consider.

As far as players Ryans may try to sign in Houston:

Moseley, Jimmie Ward, Azeez Al-Shaair, Charles Omenihu, and Jordan Willis are names to watch.

Chakravarthi gave me his input on this question, as well, writing, "Azeez Al-Shaair seems like a prime candidate. He could be the top linebacker in Houston and Ryans' scheme is predicated on good linebacker play. Other candidates could be Jimmie Ward, as a veteran to lead the charge for younger players, and Emmanuel Moseley, who is one of the more underrated players on the team. A potential reunion for Charles Omenihu could make sense as a young pass-rusher entering his prime."

Do the Niners re-sign Emmanuel Moseley or does he go with Coach Ryans to the Texans? Would love to have him back. - Uncle Salty

I hope the 49ers are able to bring back Emmanuel Moseley. But he will be someone Ryans goes after. You can be sure of that.

My question is, I know it is early, but what position groups do you think will be biggest needs this off-season? - John B.

To me, the biggest needs for the 49ers are:

  • Offensive line (specifically center and right tackle)
  • Secondary (specifically nickel corner and free safety)
  • Defensive tackle (I've had enough of Javon Kinlaw)
  • Defensive end (someone opposite of Nick Bosa)
  • Backup quarterback (in case Purdy isn't ready for the 2023 season)

Did Lenoir do enough in the postseason to be fine with him, Womack, Mooney and bringing back E-man? Or do we need to look at an upgrade? - Nick E.

As I wrote above, I think the secondary needs to be upgraded. Is Samuel Womack ready to be the nickel corner? If Moseley returns, how healthy and ready will he be? Deommodore Lenoir played really well in the playoffs. I'd prefer someone like a healthy Moseley on the other side, but maybe the coaches have seen enough.

What are your thoughts on which of the free agents the 49ers will keep? - Jennifer B.

Which players get re-signed and how aggressive will the team be in free agency this year? - Niner Jim

These two questions were virtually the same, so I've included them together.

The 49ers have 24 players that will be free agents come March. Three are restricted (Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Kevin Givens, and Colton McKivitz), and should be back in 2023. So they have a lot of players to replace.

I believe they will be aggressive in free agency. They won't overpay on the biggest names. That's just not how they operate. But they have some holes to fill, and will likely be aggressive.

Here are the free agents I'd like to see them keep, along with whether or not I think they'll be back.

  • Jimmie Ward (Gone)
  • Emmanuel Moseley (Will be back)
  • Robbie Gould (Will be back)
  • Charles Omenihu (Gone)
  • Jordan Willis (Will be back)
  • Taybor Pepper (Will be back)

Here are the free agents I am ok to see return, as long as it's for the right price, and whether or not they'll be back:

Do you think they will try and get Purdy buffed up a bit for next season? - Simon G.

I think the 49ers will be more focused on getting Purdy healthy for next season. But yes, it would be nice to have seen him get a little bigger and stronger. Now, he has to focus on rehabbing.

Not just the 49ers, but now EVERY team, if you aren't going to suit up and carry 3 QBs, should a LOT more effort be put into making sure your Emergency QB can actually throw and be used decently? - Will D.

Do you think the NFL will look at having 3 QB on rosters in these championship games? - Eric S.

Will and Eric asked very similar questions, so I've included both here.

I doubt the rule will be changed. And I say that based on what lan Rapoport said this week on KNBR. He was asked if the emergency QB rule might come back. It used to be that way. A team could have a designated emergency quarterback who would only play if the other two went down. Once the emergency QB got into the game, the other two were not eligible to return.

But Rapoport said he doesn't see that returning as a rule, that the three QB issue never comes up in meetings, and that he doubts it ever will. A team can dress three quarterbacks as it is, but they would be sacrificing another position, which is more likely to be needed.

If the Niners were to trade Trey Lance this offseason, what would be the salary cap implications? I've read that if they trade Lance, they would take a $20m+ dead cap hit? - Samuel H.

I seriously do not believe the 49ers will trade Lance. They haven't even had a chance to see what he can become. What happens if you trade him, for far less than you gave up to draft him, and he develops into a superstar down the road? If you've won the Super Bowl with Purdy, you can survive that. But if you haven't, that will be a terrible look. In fact, it may be worse than keeping him and realizing he's a bust at some point.

And yes, if the 49ers traded Lance, they'd take a sizeable cap hit in dead money. According to Spotrac, if they trade him prior to June 1, the dead cap hit would be $11.08 million, and if they traded him after June 1 the hit would be $5.54 million, but that would make little sense because the return would not include any draft capital in 2023.

If Lance and Purdy can get healthy, the 49ers have two young, affordable quarterbacks with the ability to become difference-makers. I think they'll hold on to Lance. But not everyone agrees with me.

Mike Sando, of The Athletic, wrote, "I think they will trade Trey Lance to Tennessee and then they will end up with Brady and Brady will play one year for his home team, and they will have Brock Purdy as the backup," an exec from another team predicted Sunday. "That is the chatter. They have the defense already, Brady wants to win one more, and this is right up the 49ers' alley."

That Brady part obviously isn't happening now that he is retiring. But I'm sure many will still predict Lance to be traded. I say he won't be.

Who will be right? Me, or the nameless, faceless, executive from some other team?

Will the NFL safety committee take up the question of whether Kyle will be allowed to continue coaching and get even more QBs hurt? - Daniel S.

Daniel, are you referring to the coach who won 12 games in a row, and had his team one game away from the Super Bowl, while playing with a barely-drafted rookie quarterback?

When is Shannahan going to hold himself accountable for the mistakes? - Miguel

He holds himself accountable. And I'm sure Jed York holds him accountable, too. Sometimes coaches make mistakes. And the players have to come through and do as they're coached. Sometimes they make mistakes. And sometimes things just don't go your way.

Why was nothing called against Philly? Rigged. Why didn't our 4th string QB get a flag for Philly landing full body, causing a concussion? Rigged. Why didn't they flag Philly for holding Deebo's face mask for a good 20+ seconds, but flags went flying went Trent pulled him off? Rigged. - Michael K.

I'm sensing a theme from Michael here.

I'm not one to ever blame the officiating, but there were some bad calls in the NFC Championship Game. The missed drop by DeVonta Smith, the roughing the punter call, some missed holding calls (which happens in every game), the Ward pass interference penalty, and the fact that Lane Johnson came out of his stance early on several (editor's note: way more than several) plays.

But no, Michael, I don't think it's rigged.

Has any team in the history of pro sports ever suffered as many injuries as we have since 2020? - Will H.

If any team has, they undoubtedly have not had the success and deep postseason runs the 49ers have had. It's remarkable how this team has been so good in spite of all they've endured.

Why no review of the no-catch eagles? - Yves L.

Shanahan said they didn't see an angle that showed the ball hit the ground until it was too late. And he's telling the truth. Even on the Fox broadcast, they didn't show those angles until after the Eagles had scored the touchdown and returned from a commercial break.

But he should have thrown the challenge flag, or called a timeout, when he saw Smith jump up as he did. It was clear he didn't think he caught it.

So it's partly on Shanahan, and partly on the NFL and Fox for not having the right camera angles in time. But even then, you can't be relying on that.

Jimmy G saying 'Everything will work out." to Dr. John York and Denise DeBartolo... Does that mean Jimmy G is coming back? What's your take? - Johnny Y.

I don't take it that way. I could be wrong, but he had just hugged both of them and expressed his gratitude to them both. My guess is they were wishing him well, and he was assuring them that everything would work out, for himself and for the 49ers.

I don't expect Garoppolo to return to the 49ers for the 2023 season. Then again, I've had him buried and the shovels put away a few times already. But he keeps coming back, like some Halloween, Michael Myers craziness. Will Garopplo return again? (Cue the "Thriller" track)

Thanks for all your great questions, and for supporting us throughout another fun season. We'll still be here through the summer, so keep watching out for our 49ers coverage.
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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