If you’ve been following the NFL over the last few days/weeks, you might have heard some interesting speculation regarding the San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo. What first needs to be addressed is it’s just that: speculation. It’s also somewhat obvious. It’s also borderline pretentious trolling to be pounding that rhetoric the way it has been.
The narrative is if Jimmy Garoppolo tanks the 2019 season, the 49ers will move on via cutting Garoppolo and getting Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. It stems from the reports that Shanahan originally wanted Cousins when he arrived in San Francisco, but Jimmy G had to go Jimmy G. The narrative described has everyone in a tizzy, and I’m here to tell you: yes, the 49ers could do that. They also could fire Shanahan and John Lynch after 2019. They could also trade Mike McGlinchey for a sandwich.
Could and will are two different things. And since there’s no “Report:” beginning any of these speculations, it’s just that: someone’s opinion. The 49ers could be looking to move on from Garoppolo after 2019. But for them to move on from him to Cousins? Um...well...it’s possible...I guess. Well...not really.
Remember, I said they could. To do so, an awful lot of awful things need to happen for it to work. All of it awful.
1: Garoppolo needs not just to be bad, but baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad
The only way the 49ers bench/cut Garoppolo is he decides to collect another IR designation or if his play is atrocious. We’re talking Brock Osweiler on the Houston Texans levels of ineptitude here. In his limited sample size of 2018, Garoppolo wasn’t close to his amazing 2017 finish, but it wasn’t anywhere in the realm of mediocre either.
Now, if we see interceptions, inexcusable interceptions, “we want Mullens” interceptions, then yes, Garoppolo could see the pine. Ducks, fumbles, lousy teammate? Send him over. The 49ers have this guy on a decent four-year deal and have seen the possible ceiling of him. He’d have to take things in the tank to change their minds on that.
And yes, if Garoppolo gets injured again, the 49ers could restructure the deal a bit and be looking to the draft for a replacement. Garoppolo could get released, but he’d have to be bad to get there. Bad. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.
2: Kirk Cousins has to be available
So the Minnesota Vikings didn’t get exactly what they wanted with Kirk Cousins in 2018, but they also have him for another two years. If Jimmy Garoppolo does poorly, everyone looks to Cousins. Well here’s the thing: the Vikings have to trade him, and Cousins’ contract has a no-trade clause.
It’s not like the Vikings would. Yes, the Vikings had a disappointing 8-7-1 finish to 2018, but a lot of it was unfairly placed on Cousins’ shoulders (they’d have nine wins if it weren’t for the kicker in Week 2, 10 if the Vikings defense didn’t collapse in Week 3). So now the 49ers are trading a draft pick for a quarterback, who would have a year left on his mega-deal.
Even if he agreed to it, you think he wants to go to San Francisco? This is the team that was going to get him in 2018, and then scrapped that idea when Jimmy G went Jimmy G. You think he’d want to go there after all that drama he had with the 49ers, then watching them give Jimmy G a deal, an IR, and then a vote of no confidence?
Furthermore, Cousins’ contract has a “no franchise tag” clause. So if the 49ers pull off a trade, they then would, in effect, be sending a draft pick for a quarterback who would be 32 years old in 2020. Oh, and then they have to lock him up on another long-term deal. They have no second-round pick in 2020—they gave that up for Dee Ford. Keep that in mind.
So do the Vikings release Cousins? Release him and eat $31 million in dead money? Is he that bad? Remember when the Texans traded Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns to get the money off the books? As far as a release, that’s not happening.
3: Quarterback prospects have to be awful
If the 49ers decide Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t the guy, then it’s time to look at Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard (one won’t be with the team in a few months). Two backups who are fluent in the Kyle Shanahan scheme. Then it’s the draft. If Garoppolo plays as bad as necessary to get the boot, the 49ers are back in the top-five of the draft, and they are looking at a quarterback.
Kyle Shanahan is also polishing his resume.
If Kirk Cousins is available, the 49ers have options in the draft. Yes, he did well in Shanahan’s offense, and yes, he played in it. But he’s had three offensive coordinators since then. It’s not like he walks through the door and instantly remembers the entire playbook of Shanahan. A playbook last used in 2013, mind you (assuming Sean McVay’s is different, which it kind of isn’t), which brings up Shanahan. If the 49ers play poorly in 2019, Shanahan isn’t fired, but his seat is getting warm. Cousins would know this. One bad season getting acclimated and all of the sudden, he’s without the coach he “covets,” and he’s with the new guy. The 49ers are without a long-term quarterback prospect as well since they sunk a bunch of cap space in a 32-year-old quarterback who may not fit the new guy’s system.
Given all the other deals the 49ers need to give out, they might not be able to afford Cousins and would look to a quarterback prospect in the draft. If Shanahan can get a prospect and win something, it might get him yet another year since it’s a new guy and the 49ers are finally, no we’re serious this time, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it, in the right direction. Cousins comes in and loses after one year with that money? That could be enough to cost Shanahan his job.
Wrapping it all up
So, if Garoppolo plays bad, Cousins is available despite the dead money hit the Vikings take, AND wants a trade, AND the 49ers have a pick to send the Vikings for a 32-year-old quarterback with an absurdly high deal (or the money to get him in free agency while the Vikings eat a crap-ton of dead money), AND Cousins actually wants to come here with the scenario presented, AND the draft picks all look terrible.
Then yes. The 49ers could get rid of Garoppolo and get Cousins.
Garoppolo getting cut is a possible scenario. Garoppolo getting cut, so the 49ers have Cousins in 2020 is not.