When Kyle Shanahan said last week that he didn’t see any scenario of Jimmy Garoppolo returning to the 49ers, that seemed reasonable. Garoppolo had suffered another season-ending injury that, at the time, dashed the playoff hopes of another 49ers season.
But Shanahan’s quick response to the question and tone made it seem like it was deeper than what we could see on the surface. The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami wrote about how Shanahan and Garoppolo’s relationship went south in the second half of the season:
Well, I checked around the team and discovered: Yes, the relationship between Garoppolo and Shanahan/Lynch seems to have gone a bit south in the days or weeks leading up to the NFC Championship Game loss in Philadelphia. I don’t know if there was a specific blow-up or conversation that led to this. I don’t know what the main issue was.
Let the speculation begin. Let’s start with the obvious: How Jimmy and his agent handled last year’s injury and how it affected the team’s ability to trade or move on from Garoppolo during the offseason.
Even if you’re not in the belief that Shanahan would let a grudge linger for most of the year, there are plenty of plausible reasons we could all come up with as to why the relationship soured.
Tim went on to write about how Jimmy and Kyle were never especially close, despite the 49ers winning games. But after multiple injuries and saving a roster spot in the playoffs for Jimmy, that may have been the final straw. Here’s more from Tim:
But Shanahan and Lynch saved it for Garoppolo, who tried and couldn’t get healthy enough to be Purdy’s backup in the conference title game. And then Purdy got hurt.
Again, I don’t know that any of this directly led to Shanahan’s abrupt answer about Garoppolo and, before that, Garoppolo bypassing the media during locker-room clean-out day last week, but I imagine this was part of the atmosphere around the two.
Which maybe is the perfect weird way to end the extended high/low Garoppolo era with the 49ers. There was no chance Garoppolo was sticking around again as the 49ers’ backup in 2023, and there was also no chance that Shanahan or Lynch would’ve wanted him to once Purdy emerged as a quality starter. Shanahan’s terse answer was just the official notification of this.
A fitting end to the Garoppolo era, indeed. Tim said Shanahan “daydreamed” of playing Purdy before Garoppolo’s injury, so moving on from Jimmy shouldn’t be difficult for the 49ers play-caller.