The quarterback position is under the microscope for the San Francisco 49ers going into the offseason. After an injury-filled 2020 campaign derailed any hopes of returning to the Super Bowl, the Niners have to decide what to do with Jimmy Garoppolo.
We have heard all of the rumors about why San Francisco should target Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford, or Aaron Rodgers (if he truly is available).
Give credit to general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers have seemingly been on every big name that has become available over the past three years. Lynch has admitted that they discussed signing the great Tom Brady last offseason. The organization was also reported to have a strong interest in receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before he was traded to the Cleveland Browns.
Now we are hearing reports from NFL Insiders who are saying that San Francisco will be a player in trade talks involving both Stafford and Watson. But, what if the Niners get outbid? Or decide to walk away from either player because the price is too high?
In either case, it’s most likely that Garoppolo will be under center for Week 1 of the 2021 season. With Garoppolo pegged as the starter for the 2020 campaign, the 49ers were considered favorites to win the NFC.
Unfortunately, we never got to find out if Jimmy G could follow up with another strong season after throwing for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 picks while leading the Niners to a 13-3 record in 2019.
Here is where Garoppolo ranked among all QBs in some key passing stats from the 2019 campaign:
69.1 completion percentage (No. 4)
8.3 average yards per attempt No. 9)
12.1 yards per completion (tied for No. 4)
7.22 average net yards per attempt (No. 10)
102.0 quarterback rating (No. 8)
Four game-winning drives (tied for No. 2)
San Francisco is 24-9 when Garoppolo starts and was very close to winning it all a season ago.
The case against Garoppolo starts with his health. He has missed 26 starts over the past three seasons. As the saying goes, the best ability is availability. Garoppolo’s interceptions have always been a concern, and although he ranked No. 8 in passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield, Garoppolo also had the fewest attempts among all starters in 2019.
He also had the benefit of having receivers who can rack up yards after the catch. Garoppolo’s 6.5 intended yards per pass attempt ranked second-worst in the NFL, and he was tied for the third-lowest in average completed air yards per completion (per Pro Football Reference).
Shanahan did say that the team has, “a starting quarterback in 2021,” during the season ending media availability but they haven’t explicitly say they wouldn’t look to upgrade.
The 49ers’ brass is doing what any good organization would do, looking at every possible avenue to improve the team. Watson and Rodgers are objectively better than Garoppolo, and you can argue that Stafford is as well.
If the Niners miss out on one of the big names and run it back with Garoppolo, they would still be in an excellent position to contend. With high-end talents like Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Fred Warner, Deebo Samuel, and potentially Trent Williams on the roster, San Francisco should be among the best teams in the NFC.
If they can’t complete a trade for Watson or Stafford, the Niners will likely keep the No. 12 overall pick. They could use that to pick a QB — if one they like is available — to be the backup. Given Garoppolo’s injury history, they could also sign a proven veteran and use the selection elsewhere.
This would allow the team to address the secondary with the 12th pick. With nine players up for free agency from the secondary, San Francisco could take a player like Patrick Sutrain, Jaycee Horn, or Caleb Farley to be one of its starting corners.
The 49ers are in win-now mode but don’t have to make a ton of change to be a contender. They have several pieces in place, and even without landing one of the big-name QBs, they could still be in a position to compete for a championship next season.
We should get our answer in the coming weeks.