The cat is out of the bag.
Kyle Shanahan has unofficially officially named Jimmy Garoppolo the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback.
It wasn’t tough to figure out he would be named the starter once Trey Lance suffered a fracture chip in his finger. Garoppolo also gave some hints a couple weeks ago at a presser through his expressions that he knew he was the starter all along and even admitted that.
"I told you guys a long time ago," said Garoppolo. "I had a pretty good feeling about it. Kind of joked about it, but yeah, I always kind of knew where I stood and everything. And yeah, now it's official, I guess.”
While it seemed like Lance never had a chance to win the job, there were actually opportunities, as limited as they were, in front of him. The game against the Chargers was his last real chance to swing the tide in his favor to setup a turning point decision game against the Raiders. Since he wasn’t able to really put together an explosive game in the preseason, it would have been difficult for Shanahan to justify starting Lance.
And this is why Shanahan named Garoppolo the 49ers starting quarterback.
Lance was not able to make a convincing argument through his preseason performances for Shanahan to start him over Garoppolo. If Shanahan is able to see that Lance isn’t blowing the doors off its hinges, then other players will see it as well. Garoppolo is practically beloved in that locker room. His teammates know that they can win with him, so for Shanahan to start Lance after the preseason he had, it could rub some players the wrong way. It possibly could have bothered Garoppolo as well despite how friendly he has been with Lance.
Shanahan has always said he will roll with the quarterback that "gives them the best chance to win" and since Lance couldn't show more highs than lows, being considered as the starter was out. It is also possible that he isn't too invested in getting Lance up to speed with his development this season. Otherwise, he would've made more of an effort to get Lance first-team reps. This is why he is playing both sides of the fence here. He is starting Garoppolo, the "safe" option, while getting Lance a bit of snaps in the game to enhance the offense and get his feet wet.
In order for Lance to start now, Garoppolo has to start playing poorly consistently. It can’t just be a one-off game. It has to be for a two-to-three game stretch at least so that Shanahan can justify making the switch to Lance. There is nothing Lance can do at this point to win the job other than wait for Garoppolo to start struggling. Not unless Lance actually gets a handful of pass attempts in a game where he makes highlight-worthy plays. That is what will get everyone imagining what it will be like with him as the starter.
Until then, Garoppolo dictates how long he will be the starter. Since Shanahan hardly gave Lance first-team reps in training camp, I’d be hard pressed to envision Lance splitting reps with Garoppolo now that practices will be dedicated to the specific gameday opponent.
The 49ers will trot out Garoppolo until he plays himself out of it or gets injured.