On Monday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan provided a memorable (or forgettable) sound bite regarding the status of Jimmy Garoppolo. On Thursday night, he acknowledged that hinging Garoppolo’s status on the quarterback remaining alive through Sunday may have been a mistake.
Here’s what Shanahan said when he was asked about Garoppolo.
“First of all, I’m glad you asked about Jimmy. I totally bombed that on Monday,” Shanahan told reporters. “I hated how that came off. I talked to Jimmy about it right away. I didn’t realize that when I did it. A person I have a relationship with who sometimes when he asks me what I think is a silly question, sometimes I mess with him back, and that’s kind of what I was doing. That was between me and that guy, had nothing to do with Jimmy when I said, I didn’t know if we’d be alive on Sunday. I was just trying not to get my typical answer of, ‘Guys, anybody can be traded if you get a bunch of ones, John should trade me, and I shouldn’t be here on Sunday.’
“That’s the answer for every person on our team, but Jimmy’s situation is, if he isn’t here on Sunday, I would be disappointed because Jimmy is a quarterback who’s played one year and took us to a Super Bowl and played at a very high level. He’s had some unfortunate injuries, but I believe in Jimmy as a person and he’s shown what he can do on tape. Now, we made this move, so it’s obvious what I hope and what I believe in with this guy coming in, but it would be a very tough situation if Jimmy’s not on our team. I want Jimmy to be here and I want [Lance] to be brought along. I want to see how he does and if it turns into a competition, it turns into a competition. I’d be excited about that if he showed he was ready for it and stuff, but we know where Jimmy’s at. He hasn’t played football in a year. He hasn’t been to an OTA. I’d love to get him out here. It’d be very hard for me to picture a situation [where] Jimmy’s not here on Sunday, because that would be, I think, very stressful for us because Jimmy is a very good player and I think we can win with him. So, we’ll play that by ear, but I expect Jimmy to be here, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.”
Lawyers love adverse witnesses who give long answers, because the longer the answer, the greater the chance that the witness will say something useful. Eventually, that’s what Shanahan did, with the way he started his last sentence: We’ll play that by ear.
That acknowledgement undercuts everything Shanahan said before it. If everything he said is true, there’s nothing to play by ear. What they’re playing by ear is the possibility that a trade partner for Garoppolo will emerge. Worst-case scenario for Garoppolo, the possibility remains that the 49ers will squeeze him in late August to take a significant pay cut in order to remain on the team.
If Lance develops quickly, they don’t need Garoppolo at $25 million in 2021. If Lance becomes the guy they’ve given up three first-round picks and a third-round pick to land, there’s no reason to risk the possibility that Garoppolo stays healthy, plays well, and keeps a guy who played one game in 2020 on the bench for all of 2021, and maybe beyond.
The 49ers, after pivoting from a gratuitous and unnecessary smokescreen that made them look indecisive and shaky at No. 3, are now focused on the smokescreen that flows from their desire to get value for the veteran quarterback they’ve flagged as too fragile for pro football. With both the Bears and Patriots drafting quarterbacks in the first round, that suddenly has gotten harder.
Indeed, at this point the only potential suitor seems to be the Texans. That could change if a quarterback elsewhere gets injured during OTAs, training camp, or the preseason. If the 49ers are hoping for an Eagles/Sam Bradford scenario to play out, however, the 49ers will have to assume the risk that their oft-injured quarterback will get injured again, potentially costing them $25 million for someone who will spend the year on IR.