Pros and Cons to the San Francisco 49ers Not Trading Jimmy Garoppolo

For over a year, questions have lingered about if, or when, the San Francisco 49ers would finally trade veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Well, here we are. Nearly 13 months after trading up to select North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft’s first round, the 49ers still have Garoppolo on the active roster. This year’s draft came and went without a trade involving the Eastern Illinois product, who will make over $25 million in total cash during the 2022 season.

Instead of pondering whether or not the 49ers will trade Garoppolo in the coming months, perhaps we should ask if the five-time Super Bowl champions are best served in keeping the 30-year-old around for one more run.

Pros: The 49ers know what they have in a healthy and competent Jimmy Garoppolo

Not every championship contender needs an Aaron Rodgers or a Patrick Mahomes. Yes, having an All-Pro gunslinger certainly helps, especially in tougher divisions, but teams can sometimes get by with a competent game manager who can avoid turnovers and limit his mistakes.

Garoppolo, when he’s healthy and at his best, is a competent game manager.

San Francisco has reached the NFC Championship Game in two of the last three seasons in part because of Garropolo’s presence each year. Although it would admittedly be foolish to say he’s the definitive reason why the 49ers came so far both years, let’s not pretend the team didn’t need him. In fact, if the 49ers felt otherwise, we likely would have seen Lance take over the starting job midway through last season.

The NFC is poised to be extremely top-heavy next season, and the 49ers return an impressive core regardless of what happens with All-Pro receiver Deebo Samuel. Garropolo, assuming he can stay healthy, has shown he’s capable of doing enough to keep his team in games offensively and not waste his defense’s excellent performances.

Yes, there are times when Jimmy GOAT comes out, and we don’t mean Greatest of All Time. But the two-time Super Bowl champion is a better quarterback than fans or the media give him credit for, and it’s not difficult to understand why head coach Kyle Shanahan has stuck with him.

Cons: At what point does Garoppolo’s lingering presence become an issue for Trey Lance?

San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Trey Lance (L) and Jimmy Garoppolo in 2022.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (L) sat behind Jimmy Garoppolo during the 2021 season | Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Kansas City Chiefs traded up for Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft, they essentially redshirted him for a year before trading incumbent starter (and former 49ers quarterback) Alex Smith to the Washington Commanders. Several years earlier, the 49ers dealt Smith to the Chiefs after second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick emerged midway through the 2012 season and nearly brought a sixth Lombardi Trophy back to San Francisco.

Teams usually prefer to end the chance for any quarterback drama to derail a season or a locker room. Garoppolo’s lingering presence, coupled with how much the 49ers gave up to acquire Lance last year, could create issues down the line.

Lance almost certainly wants to play, and a segment of the 49ers’ brass is likely eager to see him get extended action. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback completed 57.7% of his passes last season for 603 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions in six games and two starts. Lace also rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries.

To be clear, we’re not suggesting Lance is guaranteed to become an MVP like Mahomes, and we’re not promising he’ll come one play shy of a Super Bowl parade the way Kaepernick did a decade ago. At what point, though, do the 49ers insist they need to see Lance as the starter? And, similarly, what would happen if Garoppolo is asked to open the season as the backup quarterback?

Should the 49ers keep Garoppolo for the 2022 season?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021.
Should the San Francisco 49ers keep Jimmy Garoppolo? | Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The most important thing in the NFL is winning. Such a reality is why controversial receiver Antonio Brown caught a touchdown in Super Bowl 55 despite a lengthy rap sheet of legal issues and toxic behavior.

If Garoppolo represents the best chance of leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl next season, he should remain the starting quarterback. That argument is simple enough.

Either way, the 49ers’ best move is to keep Garoppolo around unless or until another team becomes desperate enough to give up significant assets. Yes, San Francisco traded multiple first-round picks to select Lance in 2021, and his time is likely rapidly approaching. Some would rightfully argue that, as a result, the 49ers must commit to starting Lance next season.

However, 49ers fans would likely prefer winning a Super Bowl with Garoppolo than watching the team stumble to, say, 9-8 and out of the playoffs as Lance works through his first full season as a starter.

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