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Super agent Leigh Steinberg: The problem isn’t Jimmy G; it’s his contract

“You have to make a decision how to restart a quarterback’s career”

Leigh Steinberg speaks exclusively to Niners Nation about the Jimmy Garoppolo situaiton

The 49ers quarterback discussion has dominated Niners Nation for quite some time, as many of you in the comments love to remind us. However, most of that discussion has been from the team’s perspective. What’s best for the team? How should the team handle it, etc.? I thought it might be beneficial to see how an agent would approach the situation, and I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk with one of the best in the business, Leigh Steinberg, earlier this week.

Leigh is the founder of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment and is one of the most accomplished agents anywhere. His life inspired the movie Jerry McGuire with Tom Cruise, and he also used to represent a quarterback you might have heard of back in the day.

I started the conversation with a straightforward question. In the case of Jimmy Garoppolo, what is the agent’s responsibility?

“Your responsibility is to anticipate, far ahead of the actual event happening, what would be the best result for the player? You could see that when they drafted Trey Lance, they obviously were taking him that high to be their quarterback...The minute that that draft comes across, you know you’re going to eventually find another place for that quarterback.”

When the news that Garoppolo needed surgery broke at the Combine, my initial reaction was that Team Jimmy intentionally waited to have the surgery in order to hurt his trade value and increase the chances he got released. Many of you thought I was being a crazy conspiracy theorist. So, I asked Steinberg about that as well.

“I don’t know the individual facts of that situation at all,” Steinberg said, “But the impediment to trading a player like that is the size of the contract. Unless he’s going to start, I doubt that a team is going to pick up that much salary against the cap. So ultimately, the only question is, ‘Is it desirable from a player’s standpoint to be waived, and then take your own look at the free-agent market?’”

Make of that answer what you will.

Once the decision to move on is made, however, how does an agent proceed from that point?

“You come to this juncture in a quarterback’s career where the team’s made the decision to go a different direction. Then you have to make a decision, especially when you’re perspectively going to get a large amount of money if you would stay there, you have to make a decision on how to restart a quarterback’s career. In other words, what is the right place?

You might look at somewhere where he can’t start immediately, but there’s an aging quarterback there who maybe has another one or two years left. Or a situation where there’s not an established starter, and they’re still are some of those situations around.”

Steinberg also vouched for the word of John Lynch when it came to the promise he made to work with Garoppolo to find a new destination. He actually represented Lynch for part of his career, so he knows him well. He also expressed confidence in Garoppoo’s agent, Don Yee, to find a suitable destination for him.

“Don Yee is a veteran agent. He’s represented Tom Brady for years. He’s very smart. He has good judgment. I’m sure he’ll handle the situation really well. He’s been around a long time, he’s bright, and he has connections. I’m sure he’ll do a good job.”

Ultimately it was an illuminating conversation on how the sausage gets made, so to speak. I also got Leigh to tell a couple of stories about Steve Young back in the day, including what Young said to him on the field after winning Super Bowl XXIX and how close he was to playing for Mike Shanahan’s Denver Broncos after John Elway retired.

Here are the time codes if you’d like to skip ahead in the interview:

- What do you do when you know your client is going to be traded? (:42)

- How do you help facilitate a deal (2:28)

- The problem with Jimmy G. is the contract (3:45)

- Did Garoppolo wait to have surgery? (4:54)

- What is Don Yee like as an agent (11:15)

- Did John Lynch overplay his hand with Deebo and Bosa's comments? (11:53)

- What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Steve Young (14:45)

- What Young told him after winning the Super Bowl (16:28)

- How did Young deal with waiting behind Joe Montana? (17:38)

- Why Leigh wanted Steve Young traded from San Francisco (18:10)

- How close was Young to going to the Broncos after the 49ers? (19:24)