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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kawakami: Relationship between 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo has “gone a bit south”

Feb 7, 2023 at 10:28 AM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made one thing clear in an otherwise confusing quarterback situation. The team's former starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, is unlikely to return in 2023.

When asked if he could envision a situation where Garoppolo would be back with the 49ers next season, head coach Kyle Shanahan responded, "No, I don't see any scenario of that."

That was all he had to say on the subject during the 49ers' lengthy end-of-season press conference. General manager John Lynch, sitting beside Shanahan, had nothing to add.

In the past, the 49ers have had a "never say never" attitude about the situation. However, last week, the door seemed to be shut on Garoppolo, the quarterback who Shanahan and Lynch have often defended and praised.

One NFL columnist, looking into the reasoning behind Shanahan's blunt statement, believes the relationship between the 49ers and Garoppolo may have soured in recent weeks.

"Well, I checked around the team and discovered: Yes, the relationship between Garoppolo and Shanahan/Lynch seems to have gone a bit south in the days or weeks leading up to the NFC Championship Game loss in Philadelphia," wrote Tim Kawakami of The Athletic. "I don't know if there was a specific blow-up or conversation that led to this. I don't know what the main issue was."

Could the issue have been related to Garoppolo's foot injury and recovery? The 49ers used a roster spot on the injured quarterback, opting not to place him on injured reserve, hoping he might return at some point during the postseason. That never happened.

Reports stated that Garoppolo came close, though, and might have started practicing in the week following the NFC Championship Game, had the 49ers beaten the Philadelphia Eagles. Although, the quarterback admitted that even that was "still up in the air."

There has been an unsubstantiated rumor (and I cannot stress the word "unsubstantiated" enough) floating around social media that maybe Garoppolo opted not to return for the NFC Championship Game, perhaps deciding not to put his health and free-agency future at risk. Of course, that could just be speculation.

If Kawakami had to make a guess, he believes the potential rift might have been related to Garoppolo's repeated injuries. Maybe the 49ers' brain trust of Shanahan and Lynch was upset that the quarterback wasn't making the kind of progress in his latest injury to justify the decision to keep him on the active roster and make him inactive week after week on game days.

"They could've used that roster spot for somebody else, maybe defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway," Kawakami explained. "But Shanahan and Lynch saved it for Garoppolo, who tried and couldn't get healthy enough to be [QB Brock] Purdy's backup in the conference title game. And then Purdy got hurt."

Regardless of the explanation, it appears the 49ers have mentally moved on from Garoppolo and are prepared to face the future with third-year quarterback Trey Lance and their second-year quarterback, Purdy. The hope is that Lance will recover from his season-ending ankle injury in time for organized team activities OTAs) in May and that Purdy might return six months after undergoing surgery to repair the tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his throwing elbow.


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