Maybe 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has to say it’s a week-to-week situation with Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter out of respect for C.J. Beathard.
But indeed, Shanahan said who starts at quarterback will be “week-to-week” during his Wednesday gathering before Wednesday’s practice. However, no matter what happens to Garoppolo over the next five games of the season, it seems inconceivable a healthy Garoppolo would be benched.
The injury to Beathard (bruised knee and hip strain) provided the 49ers an excuse to make the transition to Garoppolo, and it will be a major shift to a paired-down offense. Shanahan will now use a completely new call sheet with limited plays on it that he can relay to Garoppolo during the game.
With about 30 passes and 35 runs or so each week, coaches can go home early. The scheme can only get more elaborate the more Garoppolo learns it.
Garoppolo’s lack of knowledge will also likely force the 49ers to use the $25 million franchise tag on him for next season. They simply don’t know enough about him to offer him a long-term deal. That became evident when Shanahan was asked how well Garoppolo anticipates throws.
“That’s something that I think would be unfair for me to decide right now,” Shanahan said. “But, that takes
reps and time and that’s something he hasn’t had yet. I’m not going to sit here and make big judgements off that. That’s something I think he’ll get better with the more comfortable he gets in our offense.”
Shanahan also said as the backup quarterback, Garoppolo ran the scout team, meaning he’s learning the scout team’s plays and not Shanahan’s, and there is only so much extra work Garoppolo can do after practice. “Also, at this point in the year, you have to be very careful with how you use your receivers,” Shanahan said. “Every team in the NFL is beat up a little bit right now. You can’t just up your reps to get someone ready.”
It’s not like college where a coach has 100 players and use walk-ons to coach up a quarterback. Shanahan has to be judicious, particularly with this injury-plagued team. Consequently, with Garoppolo and Shanahan knowing so little about each other, it makes sense to use the franchise tag and then pick up the learning process next year.
“I’m very content and happy with what we have now, but that’s the thing that’s good for both of us (meaning him and Garoppolo),” Shanahan said.. “We’re not trying to figure out some long-term thing right now which I think is fair to him and fair to us. We’ll see how this goes. I think we’re all in a pretty good situation.”
Also, the franchise tag number isn’t likely to be much higher than what the 49ers will eventually offer in a long term deal. With the going rate at quarterback, Garoppolo will likely make between $23 million to $25 million a season, if he proves in a year that he’s a productive quarterback.
What the 49ers dearly want to avoid is a Matt Flynn, Mike Glennon situation, where backup quarterbacks were bestowed with big contracts and the teams quickly learned they couldn’t handle the starting job. The Bears signed Glennon to a 3-year, $45 million deal based on his play as a backup in Tampa Bay. Glennon won’t see anything close to the entire $45 million, but the Bears did pay him $16 million this year to hold a clip board and caddy for rookie starter Mitchell Trubisky. The Raiders did the same thing with Flynn, signing him to a big contract after his scant work as Aaron Rogers’ backup.
There are no signs that Garoppolo has any Flynn, Glennon or Matt Cassel in him, but nobody really knows and the 49ers have more than a year now to find out. That’s why the franchise tag is the only deal that makes sense for Garoppolo.