“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
That’s how veteran 49ers beat writer Matt Maiocco described Monday’s shocking news that San Francisco was bringing back Jimmy Garoppolo on a restructured one-year deal.
The move brings up a plethora of questions. Perhaps the most pressing: What is Trey Lance’s leash going to be like with Garoppolo — who has taken SF to a Super Bowl and two NFC Championships — watching from the bench.
Maiocco doesn’t think he’ll have much of a leash at all.
“Trey Lance did not have a safety net with Nate Sudfeld or Brock Purdy,” Maiocco said on KNBR Monday afternoon. “Now, not only does he have a safety net, if Trey Lance loses, if the 49ers lose Sept. 11 vs. Chicago and Trey Lance doesn’t play well, that safety net might just become a trampoline that bounces over Trey Lance, and could be the starter the next week.”
The 49ers have what looks like an elite team. A young starting QB replacing a veteran who is still on the roster isn’t all that uncommon, but it is when the team is believed to be Super Bowl caliber.
“Take this for what it’s worth: In that NFL Top 100, the 49ers had seven players on that list. And that’s probably pretty accurate,” Maiocco continued. “They probably do have seven of the top 100 players in the league. That tells you right there that this is a talented roster and say what you want about Jimmy Garoppolo…the one thing he does well, is he puts the ball on guys. Whether it’s Deebo Samuel, George Kittle or Brandon Aiyuk, those guys catch the ball in stride.
“That is not Trey Lance’s strong suit. What Trey Lance’s strong suit is right now is he’ll make a dynamic play. He’ll make it with his arm, he’ll stretch the field vertically, horizontally, he’s not going to be super accurate, but he’ll stretch the field. He’ll be able to when a play breaks down, he will make something out of nothing with his legs.
“But what he doesn’t do as of yet, is he doesn’t make the layup at the 100 percent which it should be. So he doesn’t put the ball on guys like Jimmy does, and allow those guys to run after the catch.
“Week 1 if Deebo Samuel has three catches for 27 yards and maybe there were some opportunities there. Maybe a ball was thrown a little bit behind him instead of breaking off a 27 yard reception, maybe it’s only 12 yards or maybe it’s incomplete. It’s a fascinating situation. The leash is basically no leash right now.”
There is also an element of this that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If the 49ers thought their was a possibility that Garoppolo might stick around, why didn’t they give him a playbook or let him practice with the team during the preseason. It makes it seem like SF truly didn’t believe Garoppolo sticking around was a possibility until right before this deal got done.
“They haven’t exactly given Jimmy Garoppolo the best chance to succeed this season,” Maiocco continued. “They cleared him the moment he stepped through that building. They said you’re fine, you can practice, but we’re not going to have you practice. He didn’t attend meetings, he wasn’t at practices, he was working by himself, he didn’t go to preseason games, he wasn’t issued the playbook.
“Even if the 49ers make this move, if Trey Lance struggles or breaks a shoelace and he has to get out there, he won’t be in his best position to succeed because of how they’ve handled this training camp.
“I’ve been asked a lot: Have the 49ers botched this thing with Garoppolo? And my answer always was no, because there wasn’t really anything they could do. Because they tried to trade him, but what team is going to trade for a guy who underwent shoulder surgery and had four months of rehab. I always said it was just bad luck. It was bad luck the 49ers weren’t able to trade him in March.
“Now I look at it and I go, if they thought there was any chance of Garoppolo coming back, why didn’t they get this done earlier? And at least give him some semblance of a normal training camp in preparation that’s needed to go into the season.
“So if they botched it, that’s how they botched it, by not giving him the best chance to succeed this season if he’s called upon.”
Listen to the full interview below. You can listen to every KNBR interview on our podcast page at knbr.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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