What might be another mystery of the early start of the San Francisco 49ers is exactly what went on during the Garoppolo/49ers/New England trade. We still don’t know for sure what was going on with the New England Patriots, but scuttlebutt says Garoppolo was traded due to Brady feeling threatened. What we do know is he came to San Francisco, and the 49ers had the luxury to try him out.
Jed York was able to give the media some time last week and brought a bit more background on what happened upon Garoppolo’s arrival in San Francisco and the plan from the coaching staff for him to get started in the offense:
“When we made the trade, obviously in the middle of the season, Kyle was probably the most conservative with it. I think everybody, from [Kyle’s wife] Mandy Shanahan to all of our fans were ready for Jimmy to start on day 1. But we had to make sure that we did it the right way and that we didn’t do something just because it was gonna get the fans fired up. We wanted to put Jimmy in the right situation to be successful. We even talked about it with Jimmy and Kyle told him, “Look, you might not take a snap and if you don’t, we will at least franchise you next year. You are going to be our quarterback. You don’t have to be on audition right now. There’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot to get up to speed. And we’re not looking for that, but we know you give us a chance to be successful.”
And if you don’t have a quarterback that can win in big games or big moments it’s really, really hard to get to this point. And Jimmy obviously exceeded any expectation in those games that you could ever ask from a player coming into the organization. And he’s continued to improve, he’s continued to work, he’s continued to get better. If you don’t have a quarterback you just don’t have a chance.”
Shanahan made it clear Garoppolo wouldn’t be starting the Sunday after he was acquired, saying that the point wasn’t to save the season but to help the future of the 49ers. Beyond that, it was more a matter of “if” than “when.” It came out a bit later that the 49ers were still looking at Kirk Cousins after acquiring Garoppolo. Shanahan said in an interview the 49ers considered Cousins, but Garoppolo played so well to close out 2017, Cousins became an afterthought.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to think the 49ers would franchise Garoppolo, give Cousins some money and then have the two compete for the starting QB job. It’s a bit ridiculous, but I wouldn’t put it past them given the salary cap space they had. A lot of things would have to go their way for this, most notably Cousins/Garoppolo being OK competing for a starting job. It may be better a better thought that Garoppolo was the plan unless he showed awful progress during practices, struggled to pick up the small things of Shanahan’s system, or proved not to be all-in with the coaching staff or the organization. Shanahan said it’s not an audition, and it wasn’t, but if it was clear Garoppolo wasn’t the guy, you could bet the 49ers would move on.
The big thing to take from all of this is Kyle Shanahan is a coach that will stop at nothing to put his players in the best possible situations to succeed. He held his ground on Garoppolo. He also has his reputation for being frank and upfront and him telling Garoppolo. “This isn’t an audition,” should carry some weight, because if any of the hundreds of Shanahan articles have said anything, he’s brutally honest about what he’s thinking.
That’s something players can appreciate.