While perusing the Adieu Haiku, a long-time weekly feature that caps Peter King’s Football Morning in America column, something occurred to me that previously hadn’t regarding the impact of Friday’s all-in move by the 49ers for their next franchise quarterback.
Given that he’s now on the endangered species list in San Francisco, what does Jimmy Garoppolo want?
In the immediate aftermath of the San Francisco climb up the NFL’s version of Lombard Street from No. 12 to No. 3, the debate focused on whether the 49ers would trade or cut Garoppolo before or after the 2021 season. Even the staunchest members of pro-Garoppolo crowd will concede that, at best, he’s Alex Smith in 2017 — unless of course the 49ers somehow get back to or win the Super Bowl with Garoppolo and have no choice but to see three first-round picks and a third-round pick sit on the bench for a second season.
Garoppolo’s reaction to the move becomes a fairly important consideration for the 49ers. He’s suddenly Tom Brady in 2014, with something far more threatening than a second-round pick from a Directional Illinois school loitering on the depth chart. By all appearances and indications, Brady got pissed when Garoppolo showed up. Garoppolo, seven years later, has to ask himself whether it makes sense to shut up and to internalize it and to use it as motivation to make the best case to continue his career elsewhere in 2022 or to agitate for a way out, now.
His best move will be to go with the flow, if the 49ers somehow are willing to pay a guy who has missed 23 games over the last three seasons $25 million for 2021. He surely has a better chance to maximize his future earnings if he plays and plays well this season, given that he didn’t play much in 2020. But if/when the 49ers try to get him to take less (that request may not come until it’s too late for him to find as much elsewhere), he needs to ask whether he’ll absorb yet another indignity from his current team or begin his search for a new one.
The idea that the 49ers would give up so much to move up to get Garoppolo’s replacement but then keep him on the team in 2021 continues to make little sense. But plenty of teams do plenty of things that outsiders don’t fully understand. In this specific case, one thing that isn’t known is whether Garoppolo will react to this latest twist with a shrug or something more aggressive.
Again, as long as the 49ers are willing to pay him $25 million (and they shouldn’t be), Garoppolo should embrace his changing circumstances. The moment they ask him to take less (and they should), Garoppolo should start considering whether it makes more sense to look for a new beginning or to trudge forward with a season that could eventually see him benched for whoever the 49ers draft at No. 3.
For now, Garoppolo should at least consider forcing the question of whether the 49ers plan to ask him to take less. If his agent poses that question to the team, any answer other than “no” should be interpreted as “yes, eventually.”