Will Jimmy G start for the 49ers offense?
By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)
Now entering his fifth season with the 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo finds himself in a competition for the starting quarterback job for the first time since arriving in San Francisco. This is because the organization traded all the way up to the third overall pick in the NFL Draft this year to select Trey Lance out of North Dakota State. A move like this is only made out of necessity, and the extensive injury history of Garoppolo played a major factor in this decision. He has unfortunately only been able to complete a full season once in his seven year career.
The 49ers have a roster that is built to win now, as demonstrated by their 2019 season where they made it all the way to the Super Bowl before being defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs. The organization does not want to continue to gamble on the health of Garoppolo and run the risk of wasting another season while their championship window is still wide open. That’s exactly what happened in the 2020 season when Garoppolo was only able to play in six games and the 49ers finished their disappointing season in last place in their division despite being the defending NFC conference champions.
All of this was factored in and lead the 49ers to draft Trey Lance as the likely eventual replacement for Garoppolo. A player drafted this high is not just an insurance policy but a huge part of future plans. The real question is centered around when Lance will get his opportunity to start. There is an open competition in training camp right now, so either of the two quarterbacks could be the starter for week one of the regular season. Here is why Garoppolo will get one more chance to keep his job.
Developing the Rookie
While Lance is an extremely talented and athletic quarterback, he may need some time to develop into an NFL ready quarterback. He only started 17 games in his entire college career including only one game in 2020 because of the pandemic restrictions. His one complete season in 2019 was off the charts and what justified his high selection in the draft. He completed 67 percent of his passes for 2786 yards and 28 touchdowns with zero interceptions while also rushing for an additional 1100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Lance has a very high ceiling due to his raw talent as well as his situation but it’s still unclear if he is ready to play at the NFL level because of his overall inexperience. He is young, didn’t play a ton of games at the college level, and when he did play it was not against the highest quality of opponents. The best plan of action to maximize his potential may be to wait and let him develop first before starting.
Returning to Glory
Putting the Lance situation aside, the main reason why Garoppolo will get one more chance to be the starter is because of how much success he and the team had in the 2019 season when he was fully healthy. The 49ers won their division that year, won the NFC Conference championship game, and were minutes away from winning the Super Bowl if not for a spectacular come back lead by Patrick Mahomes. It’s hard to justify moving on from the quarterback that got you that far if he can find a way to stay healthy and productive. The former has always been the issue for Garoppolo because he has really been solid overall when he is actually on the field.
In that 2019 season, Garoppolo completed 69 percent of his passes for 3978 yards and 27 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. He was good enough to lead the 49ers to the 4th ranked total offense at 381.1 yards per game and 2nd ranked scoring offense at 29.9 points per game. They also had the 2nd best total defense in the NFL that year at 281.1 yards allowed per game and the 2nd best rushing offense at 144.1 yards per game.
The 49ers are returning the large majority of their roster and coaching staff for the 2021 season so it’s very fair to believe that their defense and rushing attack will again be towards the very top of the NFL. If Garoppolo can repeat or improve on his 2019 production the 49ers will once again be in the conversation of Super Bowl contenders and that is why he will be the opening day starter. That being said, he will be on a short leash and will need to perform to keep Lance on the sidelines.