Anyone who has followed the career of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo knows full well that he’s not one to stir the pot.
As quiet as they come off the field, Garoppolo just rolls with the punches and keeps going.
That’s why it’s not a surprise the Super Bowl signal caller didn’t request a trade or speak out publicly after San Francisco traded up to the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for a quarterback. Once it was confirmed said selection ended up being North Dakota State star Trey Lance, Garoppolo even became the first person to text the talented 20-year-old quarterback a congratulations.
Now that the 2021 NFL Draft and the 49ers’ related drama that came with it is in the rear-view mirror, Garoppolo is set to act as a mentor to Lance.
“I try to use my own personal experiences and just what I went through, what helped me, what challenged me as a young player. I’m going to use those tools that helped me and try to help Trey out,” Garoppolo said recently. “It’s hard to come into this league; I know how it was coming from an FCS school to the NFL. It’s a bit of an adjustment, the speed, whatever you want to call it, it’s just different. So, whatever I can do to help him, I’ll be more than happy.”
Garoppolo acting as a mentor runs contrary to what we’ve seen from the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in the past. Most recently, Rodgers has requested a trade from the Packers a calendar year after they traded up for Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL Draft. This also puts the 49ers in a great situation moving forward — one that is pretty rare around the football world.
Barring some sort of shocking Garoppolo trade over the next few weeks, he’ll enter training camp as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. Even after making the blockbuster trade up from 12 to three — exhausting two future first-round picks and change — San Francisco’s brass has made it clear Garoppolo fits into its short-term future.
The backdrop here is a national media presence that had absolutely no idea what the 49ers’ thought process was behind the scenes. A 98% certainty San Francisco drafts Mac Jones. Jimmy Garoppolo being traded during the 2021 NFL Draft. These were the narratives that were thrown out there.
Now that we know Lance is the 49ers’ quarterback of the future, Garoppolo can move forward with a pretty big monkey on his back. He’ll be out to prove naysayers who have concluded he’s injury-prone and a mid-tier starter wrong. Should the Super Bowl quarterback do that, he’ll have the pick of the litter when it comes to potential trade scenarios next offseason.
In turn, the 49ers could do right by their current starter — moving him to a team of his choosing next offseason. It’s pretty similar to when San Francisco traded Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2012 season after he was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick.
As for Lance, he has not thrown a pass in a regular season game since all the way back in 2019. Boasting an elite-level skillset and high football IQ, the small-school product could be a Day 1 starter. With that said, the 49ers can also take it slow with Lance while not throwing him to the wolves immediately.
Interestingly enough, this situation could be similar to what we saw with the Kansas City Chiefs when they started the aforementioned Alex Smith for a year after trading up for eventual NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft. Mahomes sat for a year before taking over after Smith was dealt to the Washington Football Team.
To say that San Francisco boasts an elite-level skill-position group would be an understatement. Wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel provide huge windows to throw through. George Kittle is the single-best tight end in the NFL. And after drafting running back Trey Sermon to pair with the electric Raheem Mostert in the backfield, that position is stacked.
The San Francisco 49ers also re-signed future Hall of Fame left tackle Trent Williams while bringing in multi-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to shore up what was a questionable offensive line a season ago. Add in the presence to of offensive-minded head coach Kyle Shanahan, and there’s no reason to believe Lance can’t succeed in a starting role this coming season should it come to that.
As for Garoppolo’s future in San Francisco, he’s unlikely to be around beyond the 2021 season. In fact, there’s a chance he could be moved during the preseason should another starting quarterback get injured or Lance outplays the veteran signal caller.
For now, Garoppolo will likely have an opportunity to prove that he can be a franchise quarterback for another team. He’ll do so with that as an inspiration in hopes of leading San Francisco back to Super Bowl contention after an injury-plagued 2020 campaign.
This represents the best of both worlds for the San Francisco 49ers.