UNITED STATES—It’s one of the great ‘what if’ moments in the history of the San Francisco 49ers – the day they passed up the opportunity to sign Tom Brady and instead showed loyalty to Jimmy Garoppolo.
A series of injuries have all but prevented the 29-year-old from fulfilling his potential and, despite being a two-time Super Bowl champion, there has long been the feeling that Garoppolo has never reached the heights expected of him – certainly not in San Fran, anyway.
You could argue that, for a starting QB, he simply does not play enough games – he completed just six in 2020 due to a recurring ankle problem, and that lack of action has seen Garoppolo’s output diminish, as you would expect from a guy not getting a run of minutes out on the pitch.
Right now, Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and co find themselves in an awkward predicament – is it time to say goodbye to Garoppolo?
One of the intriguing things ahead of the 2021/22 season is that the best sports betting sites still consider the 49ers to be one of the leading contenders to win Super Bowl LVI, and in the moneyline odds they routinely start a game as the favorites.
So imagine what would happen to their chances if they manage to trade up on Garoppolo for a quarterback that delivers bigger numbers and who is more resistant to injury.
However, there are reasons why simply trading the 29-year-old out – in fact, there’s about $50 million reasons. That’s what it would take a rival to honor the terms of his current contract, and it seems unlikely that any franchise would take that chance given Garoppolo’s suspect ankles and knees.
The fun thing is that when he’s fit, Garoppolo is still a game-changing QB with the pedigree of a Super Bowl champion – the 49ers are also 24-9 with him as the starting playmaker.
So there might just be some interest in him from elsewhere, and that’s perhaps why trade rumors involving Deshaun Watson refuse to go away.
And then there’s the New England Patriots, who seem likely to bring in a new QB of their own. Bill Belichick is a known fan of Garoppolo, who was loved in his successful spell with the franchise.
Either way, the 49ers could free up nearly $25 million in salary cap space just by showing Garoppolo the door, and with viable alternatives potentially available – be it Watson or an audacious swoop for Matt Ryan, who has worked so well under Shanahan in the past – it could be the end of the road for Jimmy in San Fran.
Moving Backwards to Move Forwards
Of course, the alternative is that Shanahan and Lynch ship Garoppolo out but don’t replace with him a marquee signing.
Somebody like Kirk Cousins would be an option. Available at a similar paygrade to the current incumbent, the 32-year-old might be older but he has shown tremendous physical fortitude – he’s played 15 games or more in each of the last six seasons with the Vikings and Washington.
He dovetailed with Shanahan at the latter too, and his playbook is packed with options cribbed from his former coach’s little black book, so Cousins to the 49ers would be a smooth, seamless transition.
And then there are the present employees to consider. Is Nick Mullens a considerable downgrade on Garoppolo? It would be hard to make an argument for that, and the fact that he has avoided the need for elbow surgery suggests the 25-year-old can start the new season in good health – more than can be guaranteed with Jimmy.
Whatever the backroom team at the 49ers decide, it’s hard to make a case for the long-term future of Jimmy Garoppolo in San Fran.