The San Francisco 49ers have some big decisions to make, and it starts at quarterback with Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers quarterback still has two more years remaining on his five-year, $137.5 million deal which would seem to tie the franchise to Garoppolo for the foreseeable future. As Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer points out, the 49ers do not owe Garoppolo any more guaranteed money after this season, giving the team ultimate flexibility at the position.
“The first one is simple, and will be answered in the coming weeks—when push comes to shove, just how tethered to Garoppolo are the Niners?” Breer asked. “Remember, he doesn’t have another guaranteed dollar due on his contract. And there should be some enticing QB options out there, if he doesn’t get back on track.”
If the NFL draft were held today, the 49ers would have the No. 14 pick well out of reach to select either Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields widely regarded as the top two quarterbacks for 2021. “Tank for Trevor” has been a popular rallying cry for fans at the bottom of the NFL standings. To be clear, the 49ers are not going to try to willingly lose games to help their draft position, but the team faces an uphill battle as they enter the meat of their schedule.
The Niners are 2-3 coming off a blowout loss to the Dolphins who were able to easily secure their first win of the season against San Francisco. The 49ers next five games are against teams that all have a good chance to make the playoffs: Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, Packers and Saints. Perhaps the 49ers will be able to overcome the mounting injuries, but if the team plays similar to what we have seen the last two weeks they are headed to the bottom of the NFC West.
Jimmy G Is Clearly Not 100 Percent
It is important to emphasize that Garoppolo played at less than 100 percent against the Dolphins, and Kyle Shanahan’s decision to bench his quarterback was admittedly tied to his injury, at least in part. Yet, whispers about Garoppolo’s future have been present well before his most recent injury.
While Garoppolo was rehabbing, Shanahan went out of his way to squash the idea there was a quarterback controversy. Garoppolo did not make it past the first half without being benched, but Shanahan did not put the entire decision on the quarterback’s injury status.
“Watching how we were playing as a whole (and) watching how he was playing, you can tell he was affected by his ankle,” Shanahan explained, per 49ers.com. “I know he doesn’t normally throw the ball that way and I think he was struggling a little bit because of it. The way the game was going, I wasn’t going to keep putting him in those positions knowing we were going to have to throw it a lot to come back. I think it hurt him from being at his best.”
The 2021 NFL Draft Has Quarterback Prospects Beyond Lawrence & Fields
The next month will go a long way to not only determine the direction of the 49ers season but how the team proceeds at quarterback. Ultimately, the Niners opted to stand behind Garoppolo during the last offseason rather than bring in a veteran like Tom Brady or Philip Rivers. If Garoppolo is not able to make strides this season, he may not get the same benefit of the doubt when 2021 rolls around.
Even if the 49ers tried to lose, there are teams with a lot worse rosters that are likely to land the first two picks where Lawrence and Fields are expected to be selected. There are going to be other quarterback prospects to consider including North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Florida’s Kyle Trask.
If the 49ers do not like the available options in the draft, the team can also turn to free agency to find their quarterback of the future. Garoppolo must get healthy before the true evaluation process continues, but the clock is ticking not just on the Niners season but their quarterback’s future.