Welcome to the 21st edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race in the Perspective of Chase, an almost daily article on your favorite NFL team. After months and months of hearing about Jimmy Garoppolo being traded, the 49ers have decided to restructure his contract with one year left on his deal, paying $6.5 million guaranteed. But the twist is that there is a no trade clause and no tag clause, which means he will be in San Francisco until his contract is up next offseason. People forget the last two seasons Garoppolo has been healthy, the 49ers have made either the NFC championship or the Super Bowl. This is a team that can contend. But 2nd year quarterback who got very little playing time in 2021, Trey Lance, was expected to come in a be the starter. But now with a restructured deal that has to keep him in a 49er uniform, is he going to be the starter? And if he is, can they continue having success with him? Lets, get into this!
Real quick before we do I would like to let you know that we are doing something very similar to this on the Cool Sports Newsletter for the NBA and we are also doing position rankings for the NFL on there if you want to check those things out!
The San Francisco 49ers traded for Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo before the 2017 season, giving up just a 2nd round pick (who ended up being Kerryon Johnson who is currently out of the league), who found his way in San Francisco anyway last season. So ironic! The 2x Super Bowl champion as a backup had never thrown an interception in New England in 94 pass attempts. A rebuilding 49ers went just 6-10 with an average Garoppolo in 2017, but then in 2018, Garoppolo suffered a season ending ACL tear just three games into the season, giving San Francisco a 4-12 record. Because of their lack of wins, they had the 2nd overall pick, and selected Nick Bosa, the brother of at the time former Pro Bowl player Joey Bosa. They signed Marquise Goodwin in free agency.
In 2019, San Francisco was surprising everybody with an 8-0 start, and their first loss being an overtime thriller on Monday night football against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Mid way through the season, San Francisco traded 3rd and 4th round picks for Emmanuel Sanders! With Garoppolo playing NFL Top 100 type football, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders and Kendrick Bourne were all playing well in the receiving game, Raheem Mostert and an amazing offensive line were constructing the best run game in football outside of Baltimore, Nick Bosa was the clear cut defensive rookie of the year and a Pro Bowl lock, the secondary led by Richard Sherman was amazing, Deforest Buckner was playing great in the interior and the team was the #1 seed in the NFC. With wins over an overachieving Minnesota and an NFC championship chocking Packers, they went to the Super Bowl to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite an early lead, they just fell apart in the 4th quarter, and Kansas City took home the Super Bowl.
During the 2020 offseason, the 49ers lost Deforest Buckner and Emmanuel Sanders. They did pick up long time pro bowl offensive tackle, Trent Williams. But overall, it was just about resting and getting ready fro revenge the next season. Well, in 2020, everyone got hurt. Garoppolo, Mostert, Bosa, Kittle, Sherman and others. This allowed Fred Warner and Trent Williams to have Pro Bowl, All Pro type seasons. But that was the only thing that 49ers fans could have liked about 2020, as they went 6-10.
This allowed them to have the 3rd overall pick in the draft, which was up for grabs. The obvious top two picks were Trevor Lawrence going to Jacksonville and Zach Wilson going to the Jets. But at three, some people were saying Mac Jones, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Kyle Pitts, Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and others. But San Francisco decided to take a high risk-high reward type quarterback, selecting North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. They were also able to to select RB Trey Sermon in the 3rd round, and running back Elijah Mitchell in the 6th round. Richard Sherman was not re signed after some off of the field issues. Going into 2021, no one knew if Trey Lance was going to get some time or not.
Going into the season, everyone was healthy and people were forgetting that the last healthy version of the 49ers had made the Super Bowl. Garoppolo ended up being the full time starter, and the two games he was hurt was when Lance started. He attempted 71 passes with a 57.7% completion percentage, 603 yards, 5 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 168 yards and a score. They went 1-1 in those games. The 49ers snuck into the playoffs as the 6th seed with Garoppolo as the starter. Deebo Samuel had an amazing 1st team All Pro season, with 1,405 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns while leading the NFL in yards per reception. Trent Williams had also had a 1st team All Pro campaign. And Elijah Mitchell had nearly 1,000 rushing yards in just 11 games, and was on pace for over 1,400 rushing yards as a rookie. And Raheem Mostert was out of the rotation for Trey Sermon. In the playoffs, the 49ers beat the Cowboys off of terrible clock management from the NFC East winner. They ended up beating Green Bay on a game winning field goal in a snowy Lambeau Field against the back to back MVP. In the NFC championship, they faced off against their division rival Rams in Los Angeles and despite taking a double digit point lead, the Rams came back and went on to the Super Bowl. But overall, a great bounce back season from those who were hurt and great overall. But they didn’t quite make it to that Super Bowl level.
Going into the offseason, everybody was saying that Garoppolo had played his final game as a 49er. Lance was probably going to take that starting quarterback spot and it made sense to get rid of Garoppolo because of his big contract, even though it is expiring. So Garoppolo basically automatically went on the trade market. The Browns, Lions, Panthers and other teams were rumored as possible good landing spots for the former 27 touchdown to 13 interception quarterback. But also, his value was low. Who would want an older, regressing quarterback on a big contract and not only that, but give up assets to get him!?
As this was happening, Deebo Samuel was looking for an extension. He had just been coming off an amazing receiving campaign and had shown signs of being able to do this consistently in his rookie year before getting hurt in 2020. He also had tremendous leverage, saying he wouldn’t show up to training camp until a deal was done, and that receivers like Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf and others were signing big time extensions. And those guys weren’t 1st team All Pro! They eventually agreed to sign him to a 3 year, $71.55 million deal and $58.1 million guaranteed!
This morning, arguably the greatest 49er of all time, Jerry Rice, said this about the Jimmy Garoppolo situation for his former team according to 49erswebzone.com, “I don’t think there’s any big suitors right now coming after Jimmy G. You would think, with what he has done, that you would have teams coming after him. So I’m thinking that the Niners made the right decision. It’s time to move on”, Rice said on the morning show.
“I think there’s a good chance that he’s still probably going to be on the roster [after Tuesday’s roster cut-down deadline] unless something happens between Cleveland or Seattle. I think they already made the call in Seattle that Geno [Smith] is going to be the starting quarterback there.” Rice also added on Garoppolo possibly staying on the team, “No, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. But I think with Trey, it’s his time. He doesn’t want to be looking over his shoulder because this guy, he’s gonna have some adversity. There’s gonna be some ups and downs. And if you’ve got a quarterback as the backup like Jimmy G, maybe he feels like, well, there’s pressure there because Kyle Shanahan might decide to go back to Jimmy G.”
Wow! Well, maybe he had secret information that something was getting done today. Because in an expected low market, Garoppolo and the 49ers realized he wasn’t going anywhere. So, they both decided to restructure the final year of his contract. It will make him a guaranteed $6.5 million, but it won’t hurt the 49ers salary cap as much and will give them more flexibility. But as I mentioned, the deal also shows that he can’t be traded. So will he start?
I don’t think so. I find it hard to believe that San Francisco would draft a high risk, high reward quarterback that needs playing time to develop #3 overall in a stacked draft and not start him for the first two seasons. Now, do I agree with the move? I don’t know. I don’t think it was the right move to pick Lance 3rd overall. He is a very risky quarterback. And they were not in a rebuilding situation to have time to develop these players. They had and still have a Super Bowl quality roster, and having to develop a young quarterback like a rebuilding team might not be the best strategy. But now that they made that decision, this was the perfect move. The interest for Garoppolo was very slim and they weren’t going to get a deal done. It shows that Garoppolo may think he can get the starting job by taking this significant pay cut and it was an amazing move for San Francisco. I think now that they took a high risk-high reward quarterback 3rd overall, you have to make the best of the situation. So playing him is the right move. But, for a contender, if he is struggling, having that extra protection of a proven winning veteran quarterback on a significant cheaper contract is an amazing idea.
I think Lance will struggle at points of the season. But some games he will play like a top ten quarterback, leading his team to success. He’s risky. I wouldn’t recommend taking him in fantasy. But, with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle and receivers, not to mention Elijah Mitchell, who I think is going to rush for 1,400+ yard rusher in 2022, he is set up in the best position to succeed. And as I just mentioned, a great running back with a great offensive line will succeed greatly. I think that Lance’s inconsistency will show in their first eight weeks before the bye, as they’ll go 4-4 with losses in Denver, Carolina and Los Angeles (Rams), and also lose one at home to the Rams. But after the bye, I think they’ll take only three losses to Tampa Bay, Arizona and Las Vegas, finishing with a 10-7 record, two games out of the NFC West title. But in a very competitive division, they’ll finish 3rd and as the 6th seed in the NFC. They’ll beat the 3rd seeded Cowboys again in Dallas, but a loss to the #1 seeded Buccaneers in the divisional round, will send them back to the drawing board, looking to get back to their 2019 success!
My prediction: San Francisco plays inconsistent to start the season (4-4), but a 6-3 record in the last nine weeks give them a 10-7 record and as the 6th seed in the NFC, but will lose to Tom Brady and the Bucs in the divisional round!
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