If you thought Gamestop’s stock went on a wild ride last week in a fascinating Wall Street story, just look at Jimmy Garoppolo’s career trajectory since the day before Super Bowl 54. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has gone from one of the NFL’s blossoming stars to an afterthought.
With one weekend trade having nothing to do with the 49ers, Garoppolo’s career has detoured from being at a crossroads in San Francisco to likely reaching a dead end.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s stock has plummeted
The San Francisco 49ers went from the Super Bowl 54 runner-up to NFC West cellar-dwellers in the span of a year. Injuries were a big factor, beginning with losing Solomon Thomas and Nick Bosa to knee injuries in Week 2. In that same game, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for two weeks, hobbled him for four more, and shut down his season after Week 8.
The injury added a layer of complexity into the way Garoppolo is perceived in NFL circles, and it all goes back to Super Bowl 54 last February.
Garoppolo posted a strong 2019, the first time he was a season-long starter in the NFL. Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards and offset his 13 interceptions with 27 touchdown passes. He totaled just 27 postseasons passes against the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, but the Niners didn’t need much from him in the pair of 17-point playoff romps.
Super Bowl 54 changed that narrative. Garoppolo and Patrick Mahomes were labeled as emerging stars in the build-up. By the time his day had ended, there suddenly was a perception that a 219-yard day with two interceptions may have revealed the “real” Garoppolo.
That was a recurring theme in offseason chatter about the 49ers. The talk picked up steam this season, with plenty of observers quick to disregard the effect of the ankle injury.
Why Matthew Stafford matters to Jimmy Garoppolo’s future
The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are set at quarterback. Russell Wilson just completed his ninth season in Seattle, where he has helped the team to eight playoff appearances. In Arizona, Kyler Murray just completed his second impressive season after arriving as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Rams made a bold move by sending Jared Goff and draft picks to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. Although he’s never won a playoff game in 12 years in the league, Stafford gives LA a veteran quarterback with remaining tread on his tires.
In short, the San Francisco 49ers suddenly find themselves as the only team in the NFC West that can’t feel confident about their quarterback situation heading toward the 2021 NFL season. Jimmy Garoppolo has been in the league seven seasons, but half his career starts came in 2019. Nick Mullens had extended runs as the injury replacement in two of the last three years and hasn’t distinguished himself.
The 49ers can bank on getting better in 2021 as they get their other injured stars back. However, they face a perception problem with fans – and perhaps internally – if they do not make a quarterback move.
What are the options for the San Francisco 49ers?
NFL teams couldn’t help but take notice of Tom Brady’s impact in Year 1 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after two decades with the New England Patriots. The Los Angeles Rams have now made their move with the Matthew Stafford trade.
Will the San Francisco 49ers follow suit, a year after they were rumored to covet Brady? If they’re so inclined, they know the Houston Texans have been backed into a corner by DeShaun Watson, the Dallas Cowboys have no idea where they stand with Dak Prescott, and the Jacksonville Jaguars could make Gardner Minshew instantly obsolete by drafting Trevor Lawrence.
If the 49ers go any of those routes, then Jimmy Garoppolo and what’s left of the five-year, $137.5 million contract he signed in 2018 are as good as gone. He has too much value for the Niners to just release Garappolo, so the most likely scenario is that he finds himself traded with little or no say in where he goes.
It’s an incredible reversal of fortune from where he stood on the eve of Super Bowl 54.