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Still have doubts about which direction the San Francisco 49ers are heading? While nobody can predict what will happen this season, one thing is guaranteed: Jimmy Garoppolo won’t start another game for the franchise that acquired him back in 2017. 

Tuesday represented an official page turning for an organization that’s enjoyed plenty of success with Tom Brady’s former backup under center. With training camp kicking off this week, it took six words for Kyle Shanahan to finally end any speculation about the 49ers’ plan for the most important position in sports.

Kyle Shanahan delivers a clear message about what lies ahead in San Francisco

Still under contract for one more year, Jimmy Garoppolo is bound to continue his NFL career elsewhere. In fact, even though he remains a 49er as August nears, there’s zero doubt he’s no longer the team leader. 

Just ask his head coach. 

“We have moved on to Trey,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “This is Trey’s team.” 

That shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise based on the costly decision to acquire the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft to take North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. The 49ers surrendered two first-round picks and a 2022 compensatory third-round selection to move up to select the talented but raw signal-caller, a move that instantly led to questions about Garoppolo’s future in San Francisco. 

Although Lance will begin the 2022 season with just 71 passing attempts under his belt, he has intriguing physical skills that give him superstar upside.

Of course, it’s on Shanahan and his coaching staff to maximize the 22-year-old’s natural gifts. And after falling short of capturing the Lombardi Trophy with a traditional pocket passer like Garoppolo, the 49ers are pulling a 180 of sorts by rolling with an uber-athletic, dual-threat quarterback like Lance. 

By putting it so bluntly and succinctly for reporters, Shanahan silenced any questions about the 49ers’ path moving forward. Backing Lance in such a public fashion should give the second-year quarterback more confidence, but what does this mean for the man he’s replacing?

What’s next for Jimmy Garoppolo?

Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan during a 49ers-Vikings matchup in January 2020
Jimmy Garoppolo speaks with head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium on January 11, 2020 | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Nick Wagoner, Garoppolo met with Shanahan and general manager John Lynch Tuesday morning to discuss what is expected to happen in the near future. Coming off shoulder surgery, the 30-year-old still needs time to get back to 100%. However, it’s clear that Garoppolo’s next pass will come as a member of another NFL franchise. 

“We spoke when he left, and we had a pretty good understanding of what was going on, and because of the surgery and the ramifications of that in other teams’ eyes, nothing has transpired as of yet,” Lynch said. “But he’s here, he’s reported… and we’ll move forward accordingly.” 

Can the 49ers find a trade partner willing to take on Garoppolo’s $24.2 million salary? That remains to be seen. Only a few franchises have both the positional need and the requisite cap space to make a move for the veteran. But his current team certainly sounds motivated to find a solution.

“As soon as we can,” Shanahan said of when he’d like to trade Garoppolo. “Hopefully with everyone being on the same page, hopefully that will happen sooner than later. I think that would be good for him and us.”

The pressure is entirely on Trey Lance to take a talented 49ers team further than his predecessor

Will the 49ers be rewarded for risking significant draft capital to make Lance the new face of the franchise? Or will they regret giving up multiple first-rounders and showing Garoppolo the door to build around a prospect who entered the NFL with essentially one season of collegiate experience? 

Shanahan has received plenty of praise over the years for his ability to design offenses that get the most out of less-talented players. And anyone who watched Deebo Samuel shine in a hybrid role last season can attest to his head coach’s creativity and play-calling acumen. Yet it’s still fair to wonder whether Lance can elevate a good team to the next level. 

Let’s not forget that the 49ers made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons despite dealing with significant injury issues. A 13-3 campaign in 2019 nearly ended with a victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Last year, the 49ers squandered a prime opportunity to play for the Lombardi Trophy by allowing the Los Angeles Rams to score 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship. 

So, as much criticism as Garoppolo generated for his durability issues and occasional late-game blunders, it’s not as if he was a failure. Lance does offer far more theoretical upside, especially given his unique combination of size, speed, and arm strength.

Blessed with a sturdy 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame and special athletic traits, he can threaten defenses in multiple ways, which gives the 49ers a solid shot to finish as a top-10 scoring offense for the first time since 2019. 

However, considering Shanahan has suffered three losing seasons in five years at the helm, he can’t afford to not get this right. If Lance shows growing pains and experiences some early struggles, San Francisco could quickly fall behind in a stacked NFC West division that includes the reigning champion Rams and an Arizona Cardinals team fresh off its first playoff appearance since 2015. 

Ultimately, Kyle Shanahan desperately needs Trey Lance to live up to the hype. Otherwise, like Jimmy Garoppolo, he may not call San Francisco home much longer, either.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference, Contract info courtesy of Spotrac

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