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Are the 49ers locked into Jimmy Garoppolo? Well, he’s still their quarterback, and while they’ve sniffed around the quarterback market, with Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford representing the most notable interests, they’ve stuck with Garoppolo.
The complaints about Garoppolo are entirely valid; he can’t stay healthy, and when he is healthy, he struggles immensely with deep pass accuracy, and makes some maddening, head-scratching throws into coverage windows. At his best, though, he gets the ball out quickly, fits it into those tight tight windows, and can make throws from different hip angles on the move that matches the 49ers’ play-action heavy pass game.
From the 49ers’ perspective, it makes sense to hold on to Garoppolo at this juncture. Deshaun Watson isn’t really on the market and if he was, the 49ers would either be outbid or have to give up core assets, which, while probably worth it, might be too steep to seem warranted when you already have a quarterback you feel comfortable with… if healthy.
Sam Darnold is not an upgrade; at least there’s no evidence to suggest he is, and he’ll likely be too costly in draft compensation and cap space to bring in as a backup. And if you’re Kyle Shanahan, are you really going to make a bet that a rookie quarterback is going to slide into your system and be more effective than Garoppolo from the jump?
We might want to make that bet from the outside looking in, but the risk there is massive, unless you retain Garoppolo too. And in that case, you’re taking away a likely high draft pick of a potential tackle (if Trent Williams leaves), defensive end or defensive back.
General manager John Lynch joined The Eye Test for Two podcast hosted by Pro Football Hall of Fame voters Clark Judge and Ira Kaufman to discuss his recent Hall of Fame induction and of course, Garoppolo.
Most of the headlines you’ll see are the standard, “Lynch says ‘No doubt’ Garoppolo is 49ers’ quarterback,” which, yes, he did say that. But the more revealing part of the interview is how he assessed where the 49ers stand on the quarterback position on the whole.
What Lynch indicated was that the 49ers are happy with Garoppolo, at least for the moment. But, they recognize that he’s only had one full, healthy season and that they need to upgrade at backup quarterback. If you’ve followed the situation, you’ll know the 49ers have not touched Garoppolo’s contract since signing him to that five-year, $137.5 million extension, and only owe him $2.8 million guaranteed over the next two seasons.
The message, essentially, was: Jimmy’s great when he’s healthy. But he hasn’t been healthy. So we need insurance.
“We very much believe in our quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo,” Lynch said. “I think the biggest thing for him is staying healthy. When he’s healthy, he’s played at a high level. So we got to do that, but we probably got to add someone. We probably need to improve ourselves so that if he’s not there, we’re alright, we can win games.”
Asked if there was any doubt in his mind that Garoppolo would be his quarterback, Lynch was clear, but harped on the necessity for the 49ers to “insulate themselves” in case Garoppolo, as he’s been for most of his time with the 49ers, gets injured again.
“No [doubt], not at all,” Lynch said. “I really believe that… Being available is a big part of this thing. So like I said, we probably, as a stated goal, we have to insulate ourselves better and we got to have better options if he’s not there. But I’ve watched people go through this in the career where they struggled. It happened to me early and then I went eight years without missing a practice. So I believe that things can happen. I believe they will for him and I really believe that Jimmy is our guy.”
The takeaway is really that the 49ers have identified that backup quarterback is a position of need. Once the dust settled