My Stance On Jimmy & Trey

(originally written 1/29/22)

I'd like to open this blog with a couple of remarks about 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from just this past week alone. They are not verbatim, but they don't need to be. You'll get the gist.


ESPN IDIOT: "(Garoppolo) is like that guy in the school group project who gets all of the credit but does none of the work."

 

And...


95.7 THE GAME HOST 1: "The thing about Jimmy is that no matter what, he never throws his teammates under the bus."
95.7 THE GAME HOST 2: "Well, if he did, they'd be intercepted."


And so it goes for Jimmy G. If that's just what I heard, I can only imagine what I didn't hear considering I'm no longer active on social media.

As he prepares to take on the Rams in the 2021-22 NFC Championship Game about 20 hours from now, Jimmy Garoppolo rates as a good NFL quarterback. He's no Tom Brady. He's not even Carson Palmer. But he certainly isn't Rex Grossman, either.

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This season, veteran QB Jimmy Garoppolo (right) completed 68.3% of his passes, with 20 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Rookie QB Trey Lance (left) was not terrible at all, but still has plenty of growing to do.

As of tomorrow's game, fellow 49ers QB Trey Lance rates as...an NFL quarterback. Which is to say he's IN the NFL and plays the quarterback position. We the general public don't really know if he's truly NFL caliber or not. He's shown some skillz. But so did Grossman.

 

I believe Damon Bruce, longtime Bay Area radio host currently of 95.7 The Game, spoke for a LOAD of 49ers fans when he tweeted this on October 11, 2021: "If (coach Kyle Shanahan) seriously goes back to Jimmy, instead of using the (upcoming) bye week to groom the rookie, Kyle should be put in a straight-jacket."

Around that same time, Bruce also went on record as saying he'd rather San Francisco lose for the rest of 2021 with Lance gaining experience, then win with Garoppolo who's unlikely to be around in 2022.


The "straight-jacket" remark came on the heels of the 49ers' third straight loss, a 17-10 defeat at Arizona with Lance holding down QB. And not particularly well.
Well, fast-forward to January 2022. When Garoppolo healed he was quickly re-inserted as the Week 7 49ers starting quarterback. After losing in his return, SF went 8-3 to close the season, and clinched the #6 seed out of seven NFC teams. Lance played four meaningful quarters from Week 7 through season's end (he started and won in Week 17 against the Texans, which followed a scramble and two kneeldowns to end a lopsided Week 11 win over the Jaguars).


There's two angles from which to view the Garoppolo/Lance conundrum.


Angle 1) The ultimate goal in ANY season is, of course, to win the Super Bowl. That's it. It's the only reason anybody plays. You never hear anybody say "Crap...we're too loaded. If we don't trade some guys away we might end up winning the f'ing Super Bowl! That'd be a disaster!"
(Well, the owner from Major League said something similar, but there were extenuating circumstances and I'm not here to talk about the past.)
And for MOST NFL management, anytime you get halfway through a season with a reasonable shot of even making the playoffs, you're supposed to take that shot. All else be damned. You worry about the future IN the future, because your ultimate goal then is ALSO to win the Super Bowl! Right?! Not to compete. Not to be entertaining. To WIN ballgames.


Furthermore, as a franchise that (2019 aside) has done its share of losing since coach Jim Harbaugh split after the 2014 season, you owe your FANS winning football if you have ANY shot at supplying it. I usually agree with Bruce on a smorgasboard of topics, but throwing Lance to the wolves while Garoppolo is under contract, healthy and moderately effective means asking CEO Jed York, GM John Lynch and Shanahan to comb their hair, put on nice suits, occupy a podium and tell 49ers fans something like this:


"Now we know some of you faithful out there are clamoring for Jimmy Garoppolo to remain as the 49ers starting quarterback in 2022 over the young man we drafted back in April 2021, Trey Lance. And we can see the reasoning behind that. Even though Jimmy makes his share of mistakes and is not in the class of elite quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers or Pat Mahomes or Josh Allen, or even in the next tier with Matthew Stafford and Baker Mayfield, he's still managed to win 35 of 50 games he's started for us including the playoffs while every other QB has gone 8-28.
 

And the name of the game IS winning. You are right about that. We've ridden Jimmy's right arm right on into the playoffs for the second time in three years. It's weird—good things happen when he's out there, even if he's not directly responsible for them.


But we feel Trey has a chance to take us even further. We feel he's our Mahomes sitting behind Alex Smith. And so rather than recognize the good thing that we've got going right now, we're going to give the keys to Trey and hope he's not some flash-in-the-pan like Colin (Kaepernick) was.

And we've decided to do this even if we win the Super Bowl with Jimmy. Because it's not enough for the 49ers to just win games. We have to win games a certain way. 23-17 wins are all well and good, but 30-17? That's just divine."

Why, in February, March or whenever 2022, would the 49ers brass still "feel" Lance could be the next Mahomes if given a shot when Lance has proven little in his limited NFL action so far? By the time the Chiefs traded away Alex Smith after the 2017 season, Mahomes had shown them a lot—did you SEE that game he started at the end of the 2017 season? Mahomes is a generational talent and it's ridiculous to expect things to work out the same way for Lance just because he's sitting behind a veteran. 

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49ers GM John Lynch (left) and head coach Kyle Shanahan (right) traded a total of four draft picks—including their 2022 and 2023 first-rounders—to Miami to move up from 12th overall to 3rd overall in the 2021 Draft. Their jobs could ride on Trey Lance's success—especially since Mac Jones, the lone successful QB so far from the 2021 draft, was still available at 12.

Even if the 49ers lose the NFC Championship Game, or lose in the Super Bowl again, I still feel you give Garoppolo at least one more year as the starting QB unless you can somehow get the likes of Kelly or Mahomes in a trade. Which will only happen if A) they become unhappy with their current teams and demand it, or B) the family of their coach/general manager is being held captive in Colombia and will not be freed until their team misses the playoffs.


Angle 2) You do not make such a drastic change at such a key position unless there's a guarantee you can do better, ESPECIALLY if you're enjoying success. I don't care what Lance cost (see inset photo); right now, he—while obviously talented—is not better than Garoppolo. Even as an outsider, I can say unequivocally that he doesn't carry the same level of locker room esteem.


George Kittle, the best 49er offensive player—at least until Deebo Samuel entered the backfield—went out of his way to praise and defend his quarterback during last week's media session. And Fred Warner, the best 49er defensive player, did the same last week (to Grant Cohn of Sports Illustrated). Neither of those men is the type to offer B.S. in the name of team harmony, and you felt both of them spoke for everyone on their respective sides of the ball.
Don't underestimate that support for one moment. It may look to some that San Francisco might be winning in spite of Jimmy G, but what I see is a team that likely falls apart by November without Garoppolo's leadership this past season. If you've ever been exposed to Garoppolo the man, he's really a terrific dude. Nothing phony about him. I would want to make plays for him. I would give 110% for him. 


And if I, an aging fatso, feels that way, surely his fellow 49ers do too. Could the next guy, be it Lance or whomever, command the same respect?


(And let's not forget: Jimmy G's numbers WERE NOT BAD THIS SEASON. He threw for over 3,800 yards and completed over 68% of his passes. Granted, he undid chunks of that with ill-timed mistakes, but he still threw 20 TD's to 12 INT's. Which. Is. Not. Bad. Garoppolo has his weaknesses, sure, but he was not the god-awful performer his critics would lead you to believe.)


If the 49ers replace Garoppolo with Lance next season, they will essentially be punishing Garoppolo for leading them deep into the postseason twice in three years. And they will be throwing away any chance of winning in at least 2022, probably longer. 
They will be the guy who dumps his 40-year-old, size-10 wife who is stable and honest for a 30-year-old, size-4 skank who can barely count to 10 but puts out on command.


Within a year, those guys often come crawling back. It's always pretty pathetic. But if Lance is what Kyle, John and Jed think they really want...start mailing those kneepads to 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way in Santa Clara, Niner fans.