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The San Francisco 49ers have lost double-digit games in three of the first four years of the Kyle Shanahan era. Although Jimmy Garoppolo has posted a 22-8 record as the team’s starting quarterback, his inability to stay on the field has forced Shanahan to reshuffle the lineup on a near-annual basis.

Coming off a disappointing 6-10 season, San Francisco faces a tough task in trying to compete in a loaded NFC West division. But after paying an enormous price to put themselves in a position to land Garoppolo’s replacement, the 49ers are still trying to sell a $25 million lie about the future of the franchise.

Jimmy Garoppolo is a 49er…for now

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo speaks to head coach Kyle Shanahan during a 2020 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo speaks to head coach Kyle Shanahan during a playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Staying healthy has been an issue for Jimmy Garoppolo even dating back to his days with the New England Patriots. Since San Francisco traded a second-round pick to acquire him, the 29-year-old has only played 31 games.

To little surprise, Shanahan enjoyed his most successful year as an NFL head coach when Garoppolo started all 16 games. Unfortunately for 49ers fans, the team’s magical 2019 season ended in heartbreaking fashion courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs.

In 2020, Garoppolo started just six games. And with only seven touchdowns compared to five interceptions, his performance certainly didn’t inspire confidence in his ability to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl title.

San Francisco paid Garoppolo $24.7 million in cash as part of the lucrative contract extension he signed during the 2018 offseason. That investment definitely didn’t pay off in the standings. The team went 3-3 in his six starts and finished 6-10 overall.

This offseason, speculation has swirled surrounding Garoppolo’s future with the 49ers. Many view a reunion with Bill Belichick as a potential path to move on from Tom Brady’s former backup. Yet, he still remains on the roster.

San Francisco is trying to sell a $25 million lie about the future of the franchise

With Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson looking like the favorites to go off the board with the first two picks, San Francisco sits in the driver’s seat to take the third quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft. Of course, moving up to No. 3 cost the 49ers the 12th overall pick, first-rounders in 2022 and 2023, and a 2022 third-round selection.

Mortgaging that amount of draft capital screams “win now” mode. After sacrificing multiple first-round picks to get the third quarterback off the board, it makes no sense for the 49ers to then keep the rookie on the bench. If Jimmy Garoppolo struggles at all, that would only put more pressure on Shanahan to make a sudden switch.

On the flip side, if Garoppolo somehow manages to stay healthy and play well, does anyone really think whichever rookie arrives next month will remain on the sidelines for another season?

As much as the 49ers are trying to sell the lie that Garoppolo still has a short-term future with the franchise, that simply makes no sense. They have to play whichever rookie arrives later this month in order to try to climb back into the playoff mix. Will they really want to pay the veteran $25 million in cash to mentor his successor from the sidelines?

The best route to take still involves trading Garoppolo. Because if they can secure an extra pick in the coming weeks, the 49ers can give their new franchise quarterback a big-time boost.

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In one way, the 49ers’ fate rests in the hands of the New York Jets. If general manager Joe Douglas and new head coach Robert Saleh want to build around Zach Wilson, San Francisco can select Mac Jones, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance. And if the Jets take someone other than Wilson, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan shouldn’t hesitate to bring the BYU star to the Bay Area.

Plus, the 49ers can give the dual-threat quarterback even more help by moving on from their current starter. Although Jimmy Garoppolo won’t fetch a trade haul like Matthew Stafford, a second-round pick (plus some change) seems like a fair price for a player who turns 30 in November.

With several NFL teams still searching for the answer at the most important position in sports, the 49ers should put Garoppolo on the market and sell him to the highest bidder. If they land a day-two selection, they could give their new quarterback a boost with some interior offensive line help. San Francisco could even add another wide receiver to make up for the loss of Kendrick Bourne in free agency.

At this point, the 49ers should be all-in on doing everything possible to make life successful for whoever they draft with the No. 3 pick later this month. And that plan doesn’t involve paying Jimmy Garoppolo $25 million to still call San Francisco home.

All contract data courtesy of Spotrac. All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.