In tracing back to the end of season media session with the San Francisco 49ers just two days after the NFC Championship game loss, head coach Kyle Shanahan delivered no long pause nor danced around the question involving the future of Jimmy Garoppolo. The head coach let it be known the team and their veteran quarterback will be parting ways.
But in a explosive mailbag column from longtime Bay Area insider and columnist Tim Kawakami of The Athletic released on Tuesday, February 7, he explained why Shanahan gave a quick response…and revealed where the relationship between Garoppolo and the team went south.
Relationship Soured Before NFC Championship Game
The tensions were there before the 49ers set foot at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, per Kawakami.
“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,” Kawakami revealed.
As for what led to their reported fallout, Kawakami answered with “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. We know that Garoppolo won a lot of games in his six seasons with the 49ers and partially bailed them out this season by agreeing to come back after believing he was going to get traded or cut last offseason.”
But, “If I was to make a knowledgeable guess, I’d say that the mood was always a little questionable this season between Garoppolo and Shanahan. They’ve never been especially close, even while they were winning. But they worked very well together for long stretches over this period. The personality differences were part of why this worked. Until Garoppolo got hurt. Then hurt again. Then hurt again.”
Long story short, Kawakami believes Garoppolo’s lack of staying healthy eventually led to the relationship between the franchise QB and head coach deteriorating. But there was another moment that fueled the tensions.
Arrival of Newcomers in QB Room the Next 2 Seasons Added to Relationship Breaking
The next area Kawakami hit in his column detailing the soured relationship between Garoppolo and his team: The QB room.
“And in between all that, Shanahan and [general manager John] Lynch traded a ton of stuff to move up to acquire his replacement, Trey Lance,” Kawakami said, referencing the 2021 NFL Draft when Lance went No. 3 overall.
But it didn’t stop with Lance. “Mr. Irrelevant” Brock Purdy also was involved.
“And even after Garoppolo jumped back in after Lance was hurt this season, Shanahan daydreamed about Brock Purdy playing one day and then Garoppolo got hurt again and Purdy did play quite well,” Kawakami shared.
Still, Kawakami wrote how Shanahan and Lynch “decided to keep Garoppolo on the active roster all through December and January after his injury, hoping (believing?) he could come back from his foot injury at some point during the playoffs to provide insurance in case of a Purdy injury.” While adding that the team could’ve given the other available roster spot for injured defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, but was saved for Garoppolo all this time. But Garoppolo still was unable to get fully healthy in time for the Philadelphia Eagles, who battered the two active QBs Purdy and Josh Johnson with injuries.
Kawakami concluded with how Garoppolo bypassed the media during the day locker rooms were to be cleaned out. He believes he imagines this was the atmosphere involved around QB and head coach from his rounds in the facility.
“Which maybe is the perfect weird way to end the extended high/low Garoppolo era with the 49ers,” Kawakami said. “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.”