The 49ers comprehensively botched the Jimmy Garoppolo situation this offseason.
They couldn’t trade him. They didn’t cut him. They seemed blindsided by his March shoulder surgery. Ridding themselves of Garoppolo before the 2022 season began was the team’s top priority. It has not happened.
And at this point, it makes more sense for the 49ers to admit failure and keep Garoppolo.
The goal is to win the Super Bowl, right?
Why wouldn’t the Niners want to have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL behind first-year starter Trey Lance?
But what about the cost? What about the drama?
Well, the former doesn’t pass muster — the Niners are flush with cash — and we’ve been told by the team brass over the last 15 months that the latter shouldn’t be an issue.
So why not just keep Garoppolo around? Lance is a running quarterback who picked up multiple injuries last season. Nate Sudfield won’t win games in Lance’s stead, but Garoppolo could.
And to answer your other question: Yes, I find it strange that I, one of Garoppolo’s staunchest critics, am now in a position defending the quarterback and advocating for him to remain on the 49ers.
But that’s how messed up this situation is.
The only resolution now is to admit defeat and pay a diminishing quarterback $27 million to take on a lesser role for one more season.
That’s because, as of now, there’s only one team that could be seen as a viable trade partner for Garoppolo — the Browns, who would only be trading for No. 10 if Deshaun Watson is suspended for the entire season. Even then, they might opt to ride with current backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, Garoppolo’s former Patriots teammate.
Also, why would they negotiate against themselves?
There’s another team — the Seahawks — that could give Garoppolo a starting job should he be cut. They don’t seem interested in a trade for Garoppolo, though.
In short, there is no market to start No. 10.
But there would be countless teams that would be interested in Garoppolo as a backup quarterback — at a low cost, of course — if he were cut.
So the Niners might as well pay the premium to keep him on their team.
Yes, he’s expensive, but the Niners traded three first-round picks for a backup quarterback last season. That was expensive, too.
Insurance seems that way until you don’t have it.
And Garoppolo’s contract has little to nothing to do with Nick Bosa (who will play this upcoming season on his fifth-year option) or Deebo Samuel (who wants a new contract ahead of the final year of his rookie deal). Those players want contract extensions. Bosa will certainly receive one.
But contract extensions start after current contracts expire.
Yes, technically speaking, the Niners could use the cap space created by cutting (or, I suppose, trading) Garoppolo before the start of this season on Bosa or Samuel’s contract, but that seems forced. The salary cap keeps rising in the NFL and Garoppolo is off the Niners’ books at the end of the year, no matter what happens this season. There’s no impediment to extending those contracts in a traditional fashion. There’s more lost than gained by cutting Garoppolo.
No, if the Niners wanted to use that Garoppolo cap space, the time to have him off the books was before free agency in March. The 49ers’ procrastination and Garoppolo’s shoulder surgery that same month ensured that didn’t happen.
As for the possibility of locker room drama, I don’t lend it much credence, but perhaps I think too highly of Shanahan.
The 49ers’ head coach has a now extensive track record in Santa Clara, and what he says goes in that locker room and with the fan base. He won’t be pressured by players or columnists into making decisions he doesn’t believe are best.
And Shanahan has to start Lance this season. The Niners traded too much for the quarterback to sit on the bench for a second season—they need to see if he can cut it in this league. That’s now the team’s top priority.
Early accounts say he can, but he’ll need some serious run this season to prove it.
Would bringing back Garoppolo create a bit of awkwardness? Safe. But if Shanahan can’t handle that in his locker room, then he shouldn’t be running a team. Garoppolo might be loved by Niners players, but it’s not as if Lance is disliked, and if players can’t see the difference in talent between the two quarterbacks, then Shanahan is in more trouble than I thought.
After hearing nothing but glowing reviews of Garoppolo as a teammate and mentor to Lance last year, it’d be telling if No. 10 was anything but a total professional this year, despite roles being flipped.
(It’d also be bad for business for Garoppolo, who is going to be fighting for starting jobs with different teams come next year — he can’t afford to pick up a rap as a sore loser.)
Alas, we’re not going to see Garoppolo for a while yet. His convenient mid-August return date means he’ll miss most, if not all, of training camp. Lance is QB 1.
But we should see No. 10 in a 49ers uniform at the end of next month. Things shouldn’t have reached this point with Garoppolo, but keeping him around is the smart move from here.