The powers-that-be in Santa Clara have said and done all the right things in the 29 days since the 49ers lost the Super Bowl regarding the future of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But plenty of teams say one thing in February and do something else in March. Given that the 49ers have until April 1 (when $15.7 million in salary becomes fully guaranteed) to make a final decision about Garoppolo for 2020, it’s impossible to completely rule out an attempt to upgrade from a guy who had an opportunity to make a Championship Throw with 100 seconds left in the NFL’s 100th season.
I’ve mentioned multiple times here and elsewhere the question of whether the 49ers should be interested in Tom Brady, who grew up a fan of the team and who attended “The Catch” game that vaulted the 49ers to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Does anyone believe Brady would have missed Emmanuel Sanders with a championship on the line? Does anyone believe the 49ers wouldn’t have been in position for Brady to attempt that throw if he and not Garoppolo had been the quarterback all year long?
The speculation of Brady to the 49ers won’t go away, even after G.M. John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan made it clear last week that Garoppolo is their guy. Peter King addresses the subject in his post-Combine Football Morning in America column, and it’s smart to keep one eye on the Niners as March 18 approaches. That said, I’ll disagree with Peter on one key point: There’s no way the 49ers would keep both Brady and Garoppolo. If Brady arrives, it would be the ultimate Peyton-Manning-takes-the-field-and-Brock-Osweiler-reacts-with-body-language moment. The 49ers wouldn’t be able to afford both players, and Garoppolo wouldn’t want to stay. (Brady probably wouldn’t want him there, either.)
Garoppolo would be traded. (Possibly back to the Patriots.) And he’d arrive at his new team with an affordable $25.4 million compensation package for 2020, plus the next year at $25.5 million and then one more season at $25.6 million. The 49ers would absorb a cap charge of only $4.2 million, thanks to a low signing bonus.
And here’s the key prerequisite the 49ers pursuing Brady: Is that what Brady affirmatively wants? It’s one thing for the 49ers to say “we’re fine with our guy” in a vacuum. Once a guy like Brady makes it clear that he’s interested, everything changes.
What if the 49ers say “we’re fine with your former backup” to Brady? What if it eventually gets out that the 49ers passed on Brady? What if Garoppolo doesn’t deliver a Super Bowl win in San Francisco in 2020 and Brady does, wherever he ends up? No matter how things go this year or next (or in 2022 if Brady truly plays three more years), what team in their right mind would say no to the G.O.A.T.?
Yes, Brady’s going to be 43 in August. But which quarterback gives the team the better chance to win a Super Bowl this year, the guy who has won six of them or the guy who had a chance to put the 49ers up 27-24 late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV, and couldn’t get it done?
Consider this quote from Tom Brady to Jim Gray of Westwood One regarding Garoppolo, from the Super Bowl LIV pregame show: “He’s got a great opportunity to go out there today and prove it. That’s when you really get to see whether someone’s capable or not.”
The end result from Super Bowl LIV for Garoppolo was “not.” The end result from six prior Super Bowls for Brady was “capable.”