The San Francisco 49ers have their final first round head coach interview on Sunday, leaving them with Tom Cable, Josh McDaniels, and Kyle Shanahan as their three candidates. They have two more general manager interviews on Monday, with Seattle executives Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer wrapping up the initial round of those interviews.
There are different pairings to consider, and thus far, Josh McDaniels has been a regular mention as a potential head coach. ESPN analyst Louis Riddick has been mentioned as a potential GM pairing, and Matt Maiocco reported Eliot Wolf could also potentially be paired with McDaniels.
Whomever ends up as the potential GM, if Josh McDaniels is named head coach, the name that is already being connected to him is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers need to figure out their quarterback position, and this year’s rookie and free agent classes are not exactly spectacular. Kirk Cousins is the best free agent option available, and he might end up getting franchised (or a long term deal) in Washington. The draft features several names competing to be one of the top picks in the draft, but every one of them has significant question marks.
That leaves a potential trade for someone like Garoppolo. And considering he has spent extensive time working with McDaniels, it is no surprise we would hear him connected. The question becomes whether or not it is worth a trade for Garoppolo (starting at potentially a 1st and a 4th) that would also include a sizable contract extension, or if the 49ers should instead roll the dice in the 2017 NFL Draft. They could of course also hold steady and wait until 2018 if they find better options to their liking.
But Garoppolo might make the most sense based on QB history. Jason Lisk recently put together some analysis over at The Big Lead that suggests players in the mold of Jimmy Garoppolo have out-performed first round picks over the past three decades. First overall picks are often an exception, with guys like Peyton Manning (then) and Andrew Luck (now) clearly better options than Jimmy Garoppolo would have been in comparison.
Lisk looked at 30 years of transactions to find quarterbacks of Garoppolo’s age (25-28 years old) that were acquired with less than one season of starting experience. He looked to see how they succeeded over the next five years, and compared them to the first five years of quarterbacks selected in the first round.
Quarterbacks like Garoppolo included Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, and Matt Schaub. They started at least eight games 71 percent of the time, were elite 10 percent of the time, and were above average 44 percent the time. They end up starting 8+ years 20 percent of the time.
The list in Lisk’s article includes some notable busts (and soon-to-be bust Brock Osweiler). But Lisk made a good point
If I can adapt Winston Churchill’s quote (“Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others”), I would say that trading for an unproven backup who has had limited reps, stayed in the league, and showed a little something in preseason and a few games is the worst solution at the position, except all the others.
If the 49ers were to hire McDaniels and trade for Garoppolo, they would have a quarterback who is seven months younger than Derek Carr and 13 months older than Carson Wentz. It does not mean Garoppolo would actually work out, but if the 49ers want to get a quarterback this year, it might be the least worst solution.
At the same time, you don’t want to force the situation if it is not right. My guess is McDaniels would look to acquire Garoppolo, but we don’t know for sure. They cannot be 100 percent certain about it, but if there are serious doubts, this team is far enough away from contending that it is not necessary to blow cap space and draft picks on a player you might not really want.
Of course, this is all hypothetical until the 49ers actually hire a GM and head coach.