Bold prediction: If the 49ers make the playoffs this season, Jimmy Garoppolo will return as their starting quarterback in 2022.
How could he not?
The 49ers didn't feel comfortable replacing him after a season during which he missed 10 games and the team missed the playoffs. This season, he has missed only one game, and has won three of his past four starts. And his replacement, Trey Lance, still hasn't played a meaningful stretch of games since 2019 when he was 19. How will he be ready next year to replace a starter who just went to the playoffs?
The 49ers aren't developing Lance during games. His only development comes during practice when he runs the scout team, which means he isn't running the 49ers' system and might not be ready to start next season by Kyle Shanahan's standards.
On Wednesday, both Shanahan and Garoppolo were asked about the possibility of Garoppolo returning for 2022. Here's what each said.
Q: After you made the trade in March, you said QB Jimmy Garoppolo is better when he’s ticked off. And if Jimmy plays really well and stays healthy, that would be a great problem for you guys to have. You have to make a decision after this season and do you stick with Jimmy, is there a chance he stays here in 2022 and remains your starter?
SHANAHAN: “I think there’s a chance for anything, but I think we made it pretty clear that Trey is our guy of the future, whenever that'll happen. But it was also nothing against Jimmy that we took him, but we do believe Trey will be our guy of the future. And like I said, I think it'll be really hard if Jimmy's on it for him to beat them out right away. So it is kind of going like that right now and I'm not thinking much past that.”
Q: Do you think, well, head coach Kyle Shanahan said after they made the trade in March that if you stayed healthy and played well that would be a great problem for the 49ers. They have a decision for 2022. See where this is headed? Do you think it's a possibility you could still be here next year?
GAROPPOLO: “I mean, honestly with the possibilities, I try not to close any doors too early. I don’t know. It's one of those situations you've got to let it play out. We’ve got a lot going on with the season and everything right now. If you start thinking about those other things, you just get distracted, I think, but when we cross that bridge we'll assess everything then.”