The curse of the almost-good quarterback is one of the worst things that an NFL team can be affected with. That is precisely the situation that the 49ers currently find themselves in and why they should start the process of moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo right now.
As with everything else in the world right now, Covid-19 will be hitting the NFL in 2021 in the form of a reduced salary cap. The projected 2021 cap figure is estimated to be right around $176 million and the 49ers currently find themselves just $8 million under that total with only 37 players under contract. Having a quarterback like Garoppolo take up $25.5 million makes the situation untenable.
There is no argument that Garoppolo has an impressive win-loss record. He is 24-8 for his career, but he is no longer the quarterback that he was just twelve months ago. With the exception of one half against the New York Jets, Garoppolo has looked like anything but a quarterback that is worth taking up more than an eighth of the 49ers salary cap.
To see how far Garoppolo has fallen, you need to go back and watch the quarterback that played the last five games of 2017. That quarterback is a totally different guy from the one that has been on the field for the 49ers this season. For those who want to point to his record, yes, it is very good, but you need to take a look at who Garoppolo is now.
This season Garoppolo is 3-3, and yes he put up big numbers in back to back wins over Los Angeles and New England but those were artificially enhanced due to a number of forward handoffs for running plays or horizontal throws that were essentially long hand offs. In both of those games he was anything but consistent when asked to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage. Yesterday against Seattle, this was on full display. For the first time since the game against Miami, Kyle Shanahan asked Garoppolo to help carry the load a bit and, just like he did against Miami, everyone saw him unable to do so. In five quarters against Miami and Seattle, Garoppolo threw three interceptions, and zero touchdowns for only 161 yards and a quarterback rating of 29.99.
To move on from Garoppolo you need to have a replacement in place, and the 49ers currently do: Nick Mullens. Right now, the difference between Garoppolo and Mullens is as thin as the paper their contracts are written on. From a purely statistical perspective, Mullens is 1-1 in his two starts and is actually playing better. When you watch the game, the difference is clear as can be. Just yesterday we saw Mullens come in and get the ball out quick to receivers on short routes that Garoppolo has missed throws on regularly in recent weeks. In addition, Mullens was able to hit a deep shot to Brandon Aiyuk and stare down the barrel of a few Seahawks blitzes to hit the receivers for nice gains.
Is Mullens going to be the long-term answer? That is why the 49ers need to make the move now. They need to try and trade Garoppolo in hopes of getting a second or third round draft pick in return. If they aren’t able to make a trade, they should just put him on season long injured reserve and let Mullens play out the next eight games. If Mullens goes out and plays well they will know that they have their bridge quarterback that will be able to help win games while they develop the quarterback for the future that they will pick up in the draft. This is the type of move that we saw the 49ers make in 2011 with Alex Smith. Should Mullens play poorly, the higher first round draft pick could help with giving them a shot at a more highly rated prospect. Either way, the lower salary will help the 49ers retain more of their key players for 2021 and beyond.
Moving on from Garoppolo is the prudent move to make.