On Monday afternoon, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed the future of his quarterback. The initial quote everyone saw was, “I expect Jimmy to be our starter next year.” Without context, because who needs that, Niners fans took that quote and ran with it.
Here is what Kyle was asked: “Regarding Jimmy, I realize you’re still in the middle of the season, and you could still be playing more this year. Perhaps you’ve heard there’s some speculation about what his future is with the franchise beyond 2020. I assume you can’t say he’s going to be the starter in 2021, but kind of how do you view his future beyond this season?”
Here’s Shanahan’s full answer:
“I expect Jimmy to be our starter next year. I expect him to come and play with us this year. We have six games left. We are not out of the playoffs yet. I’ve been on a team that was three and six going into a bye week and ended up winning their division. I think we have guys on this team capable of finishing this the right way. We’ve got to do one game at a time, and I hope Jimmy can come back and be a part of that, but to think that we’ve made any decisions on somebody going into the future, this isn’t the case. Jimmy has won a lot of games for us this year. It’s a lot harder to win games when he’s not here, and I’m just hoping we can get him back.”
There is zero doubt that Garoppolo gives the 49ers the best chance to win whenever he’s under center. In my opinion, the receiving core on Sunday played its best game in a couple of years. Between Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, and Jordan Reed, those four were outstanding. I’m not just talking about the routes when they were targeted. They were open for a good portion of the game. We’d have no idea because the backup quarterbacks couldn’t execute.
When that’s fresh on your mind, it’s easy to ignore how Garoppolo has played this season. Yes, he’s been injured, but Week 1 was a disaster. Before that, there was training camp, where it felt like Jimmy was throwing multiple interceptions a day. Yes, it’s practice, but the coaches remember Garoppolo’s decision-making. Those decisions crept into the regular season. Jimmy can be the best quarterback on the roster, and the team could still upgrade. Those two are not mutually exclusive.
As for Kyle’s quote, if he felt strongly about Garoppolo being his guy for next season, he wouldn’t have to parse words or add a qualifier at the end. The “but to think that we’ve made any decisions on somebody going into the future, this isn’t the case” is what grabbed my attention. Why say that? If the team was so confident in Garoppolo, why did Vice President of Player Personnel Adam Peters go to BYU a couple of Friday’s ago to watch a quarterback? I’m sure Senior Personnel Executive Martin Mayhew attending Ohio State was to get a good look at the Buckeyes cornerbacks and not Justin Fields.
The point is, the team’s actions, including pursuing Tom Brady this past offseason, and who knows who else they looked at that wasn’t made public, speak louder than your typical “coach speak.” Garoppolo is the best option for the team. That’s because we are in November. Jimmy could come back a month from now, finish the season strong, and make San Francisco’s decision difficult.
It’s no coincidence that, in recent weeks, Matt Maiocco came out and said he doesn’t expect Jimmy back, along with a handful of other prominent reporters saying they believe the writing is on the wall and the Niners will pursue another QB this offseason. Health is being overlooked, as is what Garoppolo has been asked to do in this offense. There’s still a lot of season left, but these rumors aren’t going anywhere.