Are the San Francisco 49ers Actually Better off with Jimmy Garoppolo?

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Quarterback Trey Lance and the San Francisco 49ers entered the second week of the 2022 season and felt the pressure after a muddy defeat to the Chicago Bears in Week 1, in which the franchise’s young signal-caller did not play particularly well.

If San Francisco’s struggle had continued against the Seattle Seahawks at home, it would have been a ruckus that perhaps the team would have been better off this season with Jimmy Garoppolo.

Well, the 49ers got the win they needed in a loud fashion. However, that victory came at a high price.

Early in the competition, Lance suffered an ankle injury that ended his season. Now the 49ers would go the rest of the way with the quarterback the team spent most of the offseason trying to land.

And believe it or not, San Francisco’s chances of scoring another deep playoff run could be better for it.

After leading 49ers in rushing attempts (13) and rushing yards (54) in Week 1, Lance told reporters it was not college and that he needed to be more cautious when driving the ball.

“I’m not bigger, faster, and stronger than everyone else,” said Lance. “People catch up too quickly, space fills up, people close too fast, and I have to learn to protect myself, knowing just how important it is for me to stay healthy in a different situation.”

Those words will prove to be prophetic.

Running with the ball over a zone-read keeper late in the first quarter, Lance was pitched by Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton. His right leg was bent under him, and after attempting to get up it became clear that something was seriously wrong.

Lance was placed in an air cast and taken off the field. In his post-game presser, Kyle Shanahan confirmed a worst-case scenario: Lance fractured his ankle and would undergo season-ending surgery.

Adam Schefter ,Adam Schefter

Kyle Shanahan told reporters that Trey Lance has broken his ankle and will have season-ending surgery on Monday.

It’s a brutal end to a season that started with great expectations. Week 1 struggles aside, there was no shortage of analysts who expected big things from Lance in 2022. Lance himself told ESPN Nick Wagner Before the season he was eager to show the NFL what he could do and how much he had grown as a player.

“I’ve had a great off-season and training camp,” Lance said. “Every day, there are ups and downs for every rep. So I am learning as much as I can. There are countless areas that I know I will continue to improve and countless areas that have improved as well.”

Now, it will be 2023 before the quarterback 49ers have pledged their future draft and can take over the reins under the center. Meanwhile, the team must assign the offense to the man they drafted Lance to replace.

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Most of the offseason after being informed that Garoppolo’s days in San Francisco were over, the team either did not receive adequate compensation in a trade or had reservations about Lance not having insurance behind.

But even after Garoppolo’s contract was restructured to bring him back as Lance’s backup, Shanahan said only last week that the Niners might still consider tackling him.

“Like all players, we will listen to anyone on anything,” Shanahan told reporters. “It never changes for any player or coach. We will always listen to someone.”

For his part, Garoppolo said right after the ink dried on his resale deal that he didn’t expect to be back with the 49ers.

,[Returning] Wasn’t really on my mind, to be completely honest,” Garopolo told reporters. “I was training here. I had to be here, so I was here because. I was just trying to heal my body. …I felt very confident there, and I knew I was ready to roll. I just needed to find out where it was. And things got better in the last few days.”

Now, some speculate that the move could lead to a quarterback brawl in San Francisco, saving the team’s season instead.

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Garopolo Joe is not Montana’s Second Coming. Or Steve Young. His numbers against the Seahawks are, in some ways, a microcosm of his career.

Against Seattle, Garoppolo was good but not great – 13 completions and one touchdown in 21 attempts for 154 yards. The 30-year-old added another touchdown to the ground and posted a passer rating of just over 100.

There’s a reason the 49ers traded three first-round picks to acquire Lance. Garoppolo is not dynamic. He doesn’t have a cannon to hand. He is not particularly athletic.

He’s not Patrick Mahomes or Justin Herbert – a player who can have a team on his back and single-handedly lead them to victory. He’s a good NFL quarterback, but he’s not great.

However, the reality is that we don’t know whether Lance is great or not. Not by a long shot. And while there are some things that Garoppolo is not, there are some things that he is.

Garoppolo may not have the arm strength or mobility of Lance, but at this point in his respective careers, he is absolutely accurate. After starting 45 games in five seasons for Shanahan, he knows the offense inside and out.

He hasn’t lacked in big games, including a start in Super Bowl LIV. He has a lot of respect in the locker room. He’s definitely not your typical backup quarterback.

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More importantly, for a 49ers team that aspires to not only make the postseason but is making losses once they get there, Garoppolo is a winner.

QB wins may not be the most accurate barometer of a signal-caller’s abilities, but the fact that Garoppolo has a higher win percentage in San Francisco than Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay matters. In two of the last three seasons, he led the 49ers at least until the NFC title game.

This is not a situation where Shanahan now has to throw half an offense out the window to accommodate the boundaries of a player who has rarely, you know, played.

Are there things that Lance can do that Garoppolo can’t? Yes. But Shanahan knows exactly what Garoppolo does (and doesn’t) do well. He knows how to record the crime around him—he’s been doing this for years.

That doesn’t mean Lance’s injury was a good thing. At first, it was a brutal break for a promising youngster. Second, it would be a dirty thing to say.

But Lance the Great was the unknown in San Francisco. Garopolo is not. We know who he is and what the 49ers are up to. The team is going to play the ball. play defense. And if the past several years are any indication, they’ll be winning more than losing.

There’s a reason analysts like NBC Sports’ Peter King predicted ahead of the season that Garoppolo would replace Lance as a starter at some point this year.

Lance may be the future in San Francisco, but even before Sunday’s injury there is a compelling argument to be made that currently the team’s best bet for success is running offense with Garoppolo.

Now, that argument is moot.

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