If Jimmy Garoppolo’s new, reworked contract with the 49ers includes weeks of mandatory acting classes that could turn him into a non-threatening model of a backup quarterback, excuse us if we don’t join the chorus of praise being heaped on the 49ers. -ave for not finding. a trading partner and being too scared to cut it.
Of course, on paper, all this is controlled. The 49ers keep Garoppolo away from the Seahawks. They have a massive trade chip if a contending team loses its starter before the trade deadline. They line up for a strong compensatory return if nothing at all happens and Garoppolo leaves after the season in free agency. They also have a decent backup if Trey Lance struggles and the team is still good enough to make a deep playoff run.
But that last part, if you’re John Lynch or Kyle Shanahan, should also be the most compelling reason to let Garoppolo go. They will absolutely win the moment every NFL insider points out how smart they got at the negotiating table and how happy everyone is right now. But what if the 49ers lose three games in a row in the middle of November and there’s a guy who’s been to the Super Bowl sitting on the bench with a smile on his face?
This is not a knock on Lance, but it is a glimpse of reality. The 49ers know Lance, who they traded three first-round picks to move up and select in the 2021 draft, is a raw talent that Shanahan needed to play slowly last year. The players will now see Garoppolo return to the locker room. They all want their touches and targets. They all want their playoff bonuses. In reality, they care little who gives them the ball as long as it gets there. It is naïve to believe that a locker room can privately and publicly stand behind a developing young player trying to lead a talented group of veterans through the pitfalls typical of rookies when a more reasonable and efficient option exists in their presence every day.
We’re not debating that the 49ers should roll with a pair of XFL losers behind Lance and leave themselves open at the position. There’s a certain rhythm, a rhythm that teams have to follow when it comes to pairing an up-and-coming young player with a veteran quarterback. The experienced guy should be talented without compromising. They should prepare, but they don’t READY. They should be Mark Brunell in his 40s, or Josh McCown in his 90s, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, possess the kind of squished energy, RC Cola of Andy Dalton or Mike Glennon. They should be the kind of players that exist on a roster mostly to exist, that fans and media and scouts or anonymous executives whispering to reporters around the league wouldn’t ask for in an emergency.
Instead, the 49ers have opted for the proverbial ex-boyfriend (who, by the way, has his own Subway ad). While this could be the kind of daily reminder and motivation Lance needs to clear his version of the NFL baby stage, it could also be a developmental brick to the skull. The very act of nervously and tirelessly reinstalling Garoppolo on the roster, when all of that could have been removed with a no-nonsense release and the signing of Josh Johnson, might be enough for a group of teammates who understand how it works. this business. on a deeply cynical (and accurate) level.
The 49ers are essentially holding on to a third-round pick (what they would get as a compensatory pick if they keep Garoppolo for the season and let him hit free agency). They’re basically hoping they’d get something more if multiple teams need quality starting help at the deadline and decide to offer each other enough collateral to risk the psychological damage done to a quarterback who has seen just as much live action in the game. over the past three seasons like you or I (we’re not NFL quarterbacks, remember). What is more likely? A cataclysmic QB injury, such as the Teddy Bridgewater debacle in Minnesota that forced the Vikings to trade a first-round pick for Sam Bradford? Or does having Garoppolo on the roster upset Lance and disrupt the most critical part of this operation, which is getting Lance comfortable enough to perform at a high level?
This isn’t Joe Montana vs. Steve Young at practice every day, no matter how much 49ers fans would enjoy the loose connection. It’s probably a lot like how you imagine it: trying to do your job while someone who’s been doing it better than you for a very long time sits there and watches you figure it out, with every motivation in the world to walk heroically on the field and save the day if your performance gets bad enough.
Of course, there is nothing anyone can put into a contract to prevent this from happening. To prevent people from feeling things. From being scared. From looking over your shoulder. By trying to get what they feel is rightfully theirs. And for that reason alone, keeping Garoppolo was a bad idea.
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