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If you had to pick one reason why the 49ers brought Jimmy Garoppolo back..why?

You can’t narrow it down to one reason but we’ll try to anyway

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Today was supposed to be about the 49ers finalizing their 53-man roster. That’s still happening, but we’ll be on Jimmy watch as the Niners threw everyone a curveball by restructuring his contract Monday.

It’s impossible to narrow San Francisco’s reasoning down to a single point for why they kept Garoppolo. So that’s exactly what we’ll do below.

Akash: The 49ers under Paraag Marathe have been a value-oriented operation. They always believe in striking a deal, executing a contract, or negotiating trades that benefit them with the highest value in return. In simple terms, the 49ers’ brass believed they had a starting NFL quarterback on their roster in Jimmy Garoppolo and did not want to release him with no value in return.

Ultimately, they determined that lowering his base salary to $6.5M and keeping him on the roster in 2022 for a potential mid-season trade or compensatory pick in return was worth the potential locker room drama.

Kyle Shanahan believes that his locker room culture is strong enough to withstand anything, and this latest move would be the strongest test of that.

Rob: Hubris. Plain and simple. The 49ers think their culture is strong enough to avoid a potential split locker room when Trey Lance loses a game they would otherwise win with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. That same hubris probably helped them keep Deebo Samuel on the team after his trade request, but it could be their undoing here.

Dealing with a disgruntled wide receiver is far different than having to navigate a schism in the locker room due to a quarterback controversy. Kyle Shanahan supposedly stopped using Trey Lance in the red zone last year because a group of veterans came to him and said he was undercutting Jimmy Garoppolo’s leadership of the team. So what’s he going to do if the 49ers struggle and that same group of veterans demands that Jimmy Garoppolo become the starter? There’s a reason vanity is Al Pacino’s favorite sin.

Kyle: Value/history. We have to look at this through the lens of Kyle Shanahan. He’s been consistent in saying the team wasn’t going to give Jimmy away for anything. The last thing he saw was his backup quarterbacks throw two head-scratching interceptions in the preseason finale against the Texans.

For $6.5 million, Garoppolo is a steal when you consider the alternative of possibly having to rely on Nate Sudfeld or Brock Purdy for a game or two. I would agree that Shanahan is hedging his bets here by making Garoppolo more available by making his contract more affordable. But in the back of his mind, he’s been burned twice during his tenure as a head coach.

Assuming San Francisco was never going to use whatever money they saved by outright releasing Jimmy, this scenario presents the best of all worlds in Kyle’s mind, which is how we got here.

Kyle protects himself from injury while upgrading and gets another set of eyes who can help Trey, all while not ruling out a possible trade.

Marc: Because he’s not that good, but the 49ers think he is. I posted a bit about this on Twitter, but it was particularly noteworthy to me when Shanahan said he thought Garoppolo was the 49ers’ best quarterback since Steve Young a few weeks ago. Sure, there has not been a Hall of Famer under center for San Francisco since Young’s retirement, but Jeff Garcia, Alex Smith, and Colin Kaepernick all have pretty strong cases that they were better than Garoppolo. Garcia and Smith combined to reach seven Pro Bowls during their careers, and I think it’s fair to say Kaepernick would have reached one if some things had shaken out differently.

Obviously, this isn’t a conversation about where Garoppolo ranks among all-time 49ers signal-callers, but Shanahan doesn’t lie about that kind of stuff to the media. He really thinks Garoppolo is better than Garcia, Smith, and Kaepernick ever were. Herein lies the reason Garoppolo is still on the team. Shanahan is looking around the league baffled that teams aren’t crawling over each other to get Garoppolo for a third-round pick. While everyone around the league views Jimmy G (at best) as a tier above players like Baker Mayfield and Teddy Bridgewater, who are usually cheap free agents or net Day 3 picks. For some reason, even though the 49ers traded a massive package to move up and draft Lance, they never came to terms with how mediocre of a quarterback Garoppolo is. It’s the reason they refused to hand the keys to Lance last season. Unwilling to let go of a player they evaluate so highly, the Niners opted to keep Garoppolo in San Francisco.

Yinon: Uncertainty. Not necessarily with Trey Lance, but this is one of those situations where you can choose to interpret it any way you want it to and make anything mean to be something. I’ve been doing the Nuggets for well over a year now, and I’ve seen how the main media figures have been reacting to every QB-related development as time has went on.

Right now, everybody’s confused. It reminds me of that period in March-April 2021, the lead-up to the draft after the 49ers made their trade. Whenever it’s clear that nobody knows what Kyle and John are thinking… my sense is that Kyle and John don’t even know what they’re thinking yet. The only thing they know is that anything can happen in football. Instead of letting that natural chaos dictate your fate, why not try to get ahead of it any way you can? I think the net discomfort of Lance getting hurt and Nate Sudfeld stepping in for a playoff run overtook the net discomfort of Jimmy’s presence, potentially negatively impacting Trey.

I don’t think it’s Kyle and John one way or another saying anything about Trey. They wouldn’t start him if they didn’t think he was good. I don’t think it’s Kyle and John one way or another saying anything about Jimmy. They’d cut him if he was terrible and would have already traded him if he was such a stud. A braver coach/GM duo might get rid of Jimmy anyway just to empower Lance as much as possible, but I’d imagine that Shanalynch would consider that a naive thing to do with your starting quarterback. Not after 2018, 2020, and if Lance was starting last year, a good chunk of 2021. Otherwise, I guess they just couldn’t quit that jawline. That’s as good of a guess as anybody’s at this point in time.

Jason: I’d say it’s a bit of PTSD for Shanahan and not wanting to see Nate Sudfeld or Brock Purdy take meaningful snaps during the season. For the most part, any starting QB getting injured for an extended time means doom for a team's season, but the 49ers and Shanahan know that fact better than most. When you look at the restructured numbers, it’s a steal for the security Shanahan is seeking and for the best backup quarterback in the NFL.

You had to assume the 49ers would at least attempt to restructure with my hesitance being with Garoppolo accepting. One benefit of the restructure is that Garoppolo becomes more enticing at his price point if a team gets desperate during the year. Once again, showing the patience this front office has been preaching about with Garoppolo all offseason.

There is a no-trade clause, but I’d imagine that’s more of a line in the contract that means Garoppolo needs to be involved in any trade and needs his approval. Shanahan believes he has built a locker room and culture that can withstand any sort of external noise, and it will be put to the test immediately. It appears a conversation has taken place with Lance and Garoppolo about who is the starter and the plan for both.

That message will need to be heard loud and clear by the locker room, and unfortunately, the questions about Garoppolo will only continue and get louder. It’s Trey Lance’s team, but Shanahan clearly needed his security blanket, and you can disagree with it while I understand that part, at least.