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Gold Standard: Does Team Garoppolo have one last card to play?

If Jimmy wants out, he should threaten to show up

Sometimes we miss the forest through the trees. Yesterday, Adam Schefter reported something that was a well-established fact four months ago, and the general reaction was to rehash the same talking points people have been using since February.

Instead, we should have been wondering why this report happened, which is exactly what Levin Black and I did in today’s Gold Standard podcast.

First, let’s acknowledge the obvious: Jimmy Garoppolo’s agents aren’t stupid. They’ve been trying to find a deal for their client for months. It obviously hasn’t materialized yet, so what did they stand to gain by feeding this “news” to Adam Schefter? Levin Black had an idea on today’s show.

“You have to wonder why the agents would put this out there now. To me, it’s because Jimmy is about to make a demand. They put it out there so that they can come and say in a week, or maybe even a couple days, ‘We exhausted all efforts. There is no offer out there. We are officially requesting our release so that Jimmy can get to another team at the start of camp and have a fair shot.’ I think that’s what it’s coming to.

Jimmy’s agents don’t want him sitting and being held ransom by the team through training camp where the 49ers are basically hoping some team has an injury and gets desperate...They want to be able to say, ‘There’s no trade partners out there. The 49ers need to do right. They said they were going to do right by our client Jimmy Garoppolo, and the right thing is to release him because there is no trade partner out there.”

The Niners are stuck between a rock and a hard place on that front. They have openly talked about “doing right” by Garoppolo and working with him to find a new destination. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are also both on the record that they won’t simply release Garoppolo because he’s “too good” of a player.

That first promise may have gone up in smoke. The second trade talks in February came to a “screeching halt” after Team Jimmy told the world he needed shoulder surgery, but we don’t know for sure. Even if he was released after passing a physical, it would be hard for the team to argue they’ve done right by Garoppolo after refusing to cut him until most teams’ rosters are pretty set.

If Jimmy does officially request his release and the 49ers remain stubborn about not cutting him, a whole new situation arises. The split locker room. Plenty of current 49ers believe Garoppolo has earned the right to be the starting quarterback due to the team’s finish in two of the last three years. Others may disagree after seeing Lance’s physical skills in practice and during his two starts last year. Inevitably, lines will be drawn, and sides will be taken.

It nearly happened last year after the 49ers used Lance multiple times in the first few games. In Week 1, Fox analyst Mark Sanchez commented how difficult it was for a starting quarterback to congratulate and support the guy that vultured his touchdown away. When asked about it on KNBR, Garoppolo responded by saying, “He’s not wrong,” and talked about how the locker room had his back. There were also rumors about veteran players being unhappy with the Lance package and telling Kyle Shanahan he was undermining Garoppolo’s leadership of the team. Whether you believe that is up to you, but what’s undeniable is that the Lance package disappeared after Week 3 against the Packers.

So, for now, we continue to wait for the next move in the chess match between the 49ers and Garoppolo. The team doesn’t want him anywhere near the field in training camp because a significant injury would get them on the hook for his salary. Garoppolo surely wants to report to a team that actually wants him rather than one that doesn’t. It’s a standoff. Ultimately, a “release me, or I’ll report” ultimatum appears to be last card left in Team Jimmy’s hand.