What does Jimmy Garoppolo’s future with the 49ers look like?
This is the question that everyone has been asking throughout this offseason. Those questions only grew louder when San Francisco traded their next three first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the third pick in this April’s NFL draft.
Since the season ended in January, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have been adamant that Garoppolo would be in their plans for next season, a sentiment that Lynch told Steve Wyche of NFL Network shortly after the trade was announced.
From a football standpoint, this makes complete sense. Garoppolo is a veteran who knows the system, and when healthy has been extremely successful during his time with the 49ers, leading the team to the Super Bowl in the one season he was able to stay healthy. He would give the team their best chance of winning games in 2021 while the rookie sits out to acclimate to the NFL. This is what the team did in 2011 after drafting Colin Kaepernick in the second round of the draft that year and more recently, the Kansas City Chiefs went the same route after selecting Patrick Mahomes with the tenth selection in the 2017 draft.
There’s one big difference between those two situations and the 2021 49ers.
Alex Smith was the quarterback in both San Francisco and Kansas City, and he was on the verge of being phased out. While the 49ers had terrific success with Smith under center during the beginning of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure and the Chiefs did as well, neither team was able to make it through to the Super Bowl.
When the 49ers and Chiefs finally moved on from Smith, none of the players in the locker room had the experience of reaching the biggest game the football world has to offer with him as their leader.
That’s not the case with this 49ers team.
The front office has spent the beginning of free agency focusing primarily on bringing back their own players. These veterans have a winning history with Garoppolo, and they continue to pour this out whenever they are asked about who their leader is going into this season.
When a team decides to trade three future picks for a player, the expectation is that the player they are going to get will be the one to lead them forward. To carry them to new heights.
This is why the 49ers need to trade Jimmy Garoppolo before the start of offseason workouts. They need to make it clear that the new quarterback, whether that is Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones is the player that will be leading the team forward.
While moving on from Garoppolo is a risk in terms of wins and losses for 2021, allowing the locker room to splinter due to uncertainty at the most important position on the team is a far greater risk that could have repercussions for years to come.