The 49ers at least glanced at Tom Brady last offseason. Speculation was they might have a wandering eye again this offseason.
But General Manager John Lynch was as definitive as he has been about the team’s starting quarterback for 2021.
Lynch joined Clark Judge and Ira Kaufman on The Eye Test for Two podcast and said he has no doubt Jimmy Garoppolo will return as the team’s starter.
It does come with a caveat: “If Garoppolo stays injury-free,” something he has not managed to do in two of the past three seasons.
Lynch was asked: “If he is injury-free, is there any doubt in your mind that Jimmy Garoppolo is your quarterback when you line up in September?”
Lynch did not hesitate: “No. Not at all. I really believe that.”
The 49ers are 24-9, including the postseason, in games Garoppolo has started since he arrived in a trade with the Patriots. They are 7-19 over the same period when he doesn’t.
Garoppolo, though, has missed 23 games the past three seasons with injuries. He played only six in 2020 because of high-ankle sprains.
But Lynch sounds as if the 49ers want to upgrade the backup quarterback position rather than find a starting quarterback to compete with or replace Garoppolo.
“Being available is a big part of this thing,” Lynch acknowledged. “So we — probably as a stated goal — we have to insulate ourselves better. We’ve got to have better options if he’s not there.
“I’ve watched people go through this in their careers where they struggled early. It happened to me early, and then I went eight years without missing a practice. So I believe things can happen, and I believe they will for him. I really believe that Jimmy is our guy.”
C.J. Beathard is an unrestricted free agent and Nick Mullens is a restricted free agent.
Having a healthy Garoppolo is key, though, if the 49ers truly are committed to another year with him. The only season Garoppolo played all 16 games, in 2019, the 49ers went 13-3 and made a Super Bowl appearance, though his fourth-quarter performance against the Chiefs cost the team a title.
“When he’s healthy, he’s played at a high level,” Lynch said. “But we probably have to add someone. We probably need to improve ourselves, so if he’s not there, we’re all right; we can win games.
“We are seriously looking forward to kind of rebooting our team and making a run at this thing next year. And I believe we’ve got what it takes to compete for a championship.”