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49ers in Five: Could Jimmy Garoppolo return in 2022?

How is this a thing again?

Everything you need to know in five minutes

I can’t believe we’re back here, but we are. After two straight dominating wins, the topic de jour among the national media when it comes to the 49ers is whether Jimmy Garoppolo could return as the quarterback next season. Thanks, in part, to comments like this from the national media, that question has now made its way to the 49ers’ press corps. In today’s 49ers in Five podcast, you can hear both Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo addressing that possibility yesterday.

First, let’s start with the head coach, de facto GM, and general grand poobah Kyle Shanahan. Is there a chance Jimmy returns in 2022?

“I think there’s a chance for anything, but I think we made it pretty clear that Trey [Lance] is our guy of the future, whenever that’ll happen. But it was also nothing against Jimmy that we took him, but we do believe Trey will be our guy of the future. And like I said, I think it’ll be really hard if Jimmy’s on it for him to beat them out right away. So it is kind of going like that right now and I’m not thinking much past that.”

And now Jimmy Garoppolo:

“Honestly with the possibilities, I try not to close any doors too early. I don’t know. It’s one of those situations you’ve got to let it play out. We’ve got a lot going on with the season and everything right now. If you start thinking about those other things you just get distracted, I think, but when we cross that bridge we’ll assess everything then.”

Let’s just set aside the fact that benching Trey Lance for two years after trading three first round picks (and more) to get him would be a massive, massive waste of resources. Even if we’re willing to suspend disbelief and say that that was something this organization was willing to do, there’s another important factor at play here: Garoppolo’s salary.

The way the 49ers roster is currently constructed, they simply cannot afford to pay a quarterback 25-26 million dollars if that quarterback isn’t playing at a top two or three level in the NFL. Quarterbacks at that level can elevate the weaker supporting casts that usually result from the QB taking up so much of the salary cap. They’ve already handed out big money contracts to George Kittle, Trent Williams, and Fred Warner, and they’re going to have to pay through the nose to resign Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel. Plus, they’ll have to replace around 30 free agents after this season with limited draft capital thanks, in part, to that Trey Lance trade.

There’s also two other factors to consider. First, the small matter of the remaining seven games of the regular season. Losses to the Vikings and Seahawks in the next two weeks pretty much assure the team of missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. They would also probably stop all the speculation about Jimmy vs. Trey 2.0 in 2022. Second, Garoppolo himself may not want to return next season. It’s entirely possible the constant flirtations with other quarterbacks in recent offseasons have worn thin, and Garoppolo would be well within his rights to prefer a location where he wouldn’t have a replacement breathing down his neck.

Regardless of the reason, it’s crazy to be asking the head coach and quarterback about these things in November, when there’s roughly half the season left and they could say literally anything they want without it affecting what they actually do once the offseason starts in February.