George Kittle: Experienced Jimmy Garoppolo vs. raw Trey Lance is a “toss-up for me”

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks
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When making the media rounds on Friday in support of the second annual Tight End University, 49ers tight end George Kittle placed no limits on the questions that could or couldn’t be posed to him. And he knew that the most compelling topic would relate to the biggest question swirling around the team.

Who will the quarterback be in 2022?

Kittle has said that Trey Lance has an “insane ceiling,” but that he needs the experience that comes from playing. So, for the coming season, does Kittle prefer an inexperienced Lance who is working toward his ceiling or Jimmy Garoppolo, who has all the experience needed to lead the team?

“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” Kittle said. “That’s one reason I’m glad I’m not the head coach of the 49ers. That’s all on Coach Shanahan. I’ll give you both ways. Jimmy G, awesome in the huddle, great leader, directs guys. People go to attention when he’s talking. He’s got a quick release, he knows the offense. Like I said, been to two NFC Championship games, knows what he’s doing. Trey Lance can run, extend plays, does all the play-action stuff incredible, could throw the ball 70 yards. I don’t know. It’s a toss-up for me.”

Kittle is fine with either guy playing, as long as they’re looking his way when they should be.

“As long as they’re throwing me the football, it is what it is,” Kittle said. “Football is a competitive sport. If there’s not competition, if you’re not fighting for your starting job every single day, then you’re not going to get any better. It was nice to see those two push each other all year. I think Trey learned a lot from Jimmy. If Trey is the starter and if there’s growing pains, hey, so be it. I think we have good enough players around him to help him succeed from Trent Williams, to [Brandon] Aiyuk, to hopefully Deebo [Samuel], to me, our run game. I think we have plenty of players around him to help him succeed.”

If the 49ers take both to camp and let them compete, the situation could become a distraction. How will the players keep that from happening?

“I mean we’re kind of used to it at this point,” Kittle said. “I mean, Jimmy G’s been under scrutiny since after the 2018 season where he tore his ACL. That whole season was like, ‘Oh, is Jimmy G the guy?’ Then he comes back, takes us to a Super Bowl, then we lose and then the next offseason is, ‘Oh, is Jimmy G the guy?’ We had another injury, 2020. It was a tough year for the Niners and then we came back and go to another NFC Championship game. We’ve been through this. It is what it is. I don’t think it’s really much of a distraction. I mean, I can’t tell being in the building. I see the guys show up every single day, go run routes, we lift weights, go to meetings, and it’s not really even a topic of conversation. We’re all here just trying to get better and whether that’s Jimmy G, whether it’s Trey Lance, whether it’s Nate Sudfeld, or our Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy. Whoever is slinging that rock hopefully will just throw it to me more than anybody else.”

Still, the potential for dysfunctional remains high, if the 49ers insist on keeping Garoppolo around for training camp and the preseason. Several weeks ago, Garoppolo told Adam Schein that the 2021 season was “strange,” and that Garoppolo wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Did Kittle notice the awkwardness Garoppolo experienced?

“I mean, everybody can see it,” Kittle said. “When you trade three first-round draft picks for a quarterback, it kind of has a writing on the wall, doesn’t it? Jimmy did nothing but be a professional every single day. He didn’t complain about it one time. He wasn’t in a corner talking crap about the situation. He showed up every day as the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. He went out there and practiced every day. He worked hard every single day. He set good examples for all the young guys, for all of us, and he motivated everybody. I don’t know if there’s a better professional in the NFL than Jimmy Garoppolo with how he dealt with that situation. I think he made everyone around him better that year. . . . Hey, you’re dealing with something that no one else here is dealing with and you’re being incredible about it. I can deal with any of my stuff and move on and just go play football. It was great. The way he handled it was great for us. I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody else but, hey, he did a lot with it and he played at a high level.”

That could be the best case anyone could make to another team for trading for Garoppolo, or for signing him if he’s eventually cut. He handled himself like a professional in a very awkward situation. Thus, he’ll most likely handle himself that way under far less stressful arrangements.

The question remains whether and when the 49ers will move him. The worst-case scenario for Garoppolo continues to be that the 49ers will let them compete, that Lance will win, and that Garoppolo will be faced with the choice between taking a dramatic pay cut or being released in late August, at a time when all other depth charts are set — and with no guaranteed salary for 2022. But that’s also the best-case scenario for the 49ers, since it will mean that Lance is ready to go, and that the 49ers will pick up millions in cap space that can be used to re-sign players like Samuel and Nick Bosa.

Through it all lingers the question of whether the 49ers think Lance is ready. If they have doubts, they’ll be tempted to string out the competition for as long as they can. If those doubts still linger after the preseason, perhaps they really will keep him them both, with Garoppolo continuing to serve as the starter.

30 responses to “George Kittle: Experienced Jimmy Garoppolo vs. raw Trey Lance is a “toss-up for me”

  1. Matt Ryan has specifically said it took him TWO FULL seasons before he got comfortable in Shanahan’s system.

    For a 10+ year veteran to say that, I’m absolutely fine if a rookie sits and learns the system for 2-3 years. Plus, Garoppolo’s relatively cheap for a starting QB and knows the system.

  2. Lynch mortgaged the future for Lance. They can’t realistically sit him a second season.

  3. Worst case for SF is to release him last minute & have him signed by the Seahawks. Unless the Seahawks have already added Mayfield, releasing JG is not viable option.

  4. He won’t be fine when he has 250 yards receiving at the end of the year

  5. Jimmy G is a class act and he’s better than over half the QBs in the league. He’s taken the Niners to 2 NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl in the last 3 years.

    Sure, he’s an injury risk, but there are only 2 or 3 QBs that helped their team to that much success in the last 3 years.

    Quite frankly, I think that the Ninesers should keep and start Jimmy G and let Lance sit for another year. That extra time sitting behind the starter worked out great for Rodgers and Steve Young, who both had to sit for years waiting for their turn.

  6. Lol.

    Running and throwing the ball 70 yards means nothing at the nfl level. Lance’s ceiling is running a lot, making some exciting runs and then getting hurt.

    I like Kittle but he needs to keep his mouth shut.

  7. He didn’t say anything with this quote. He’s friends with Jimmy, and is a team player so he’s going to dance around the subject. Also, anybody claiming anything about Lance is full of bs. Nobody knows anything at this point, pretending you do just makes you looks stupid. Go Niners #fttb

  8. I guess Kittle just likes to talk a whole lot. Being asked in May who the starting QB will be usually should elicit an answer like “I don’t know” or “We”ll see”. Instead he gives a dissertation on the positives of both guys before finally getting around to saying it’s the coaches decision.

  9. Trey still isn’t ready. Definitely increase his snaps this season, but keep Jimmy starting until he goes down, while Trey continues to develop. Jimmy isn’t the guy for SF, but Trey probably won’t be either, then Shanahan will get fired in 2023 or 24.

  10. People saying he talks too much would be the same ones calling him out here for dodging the questions if he didn’t want to truthfully answer them, like he did.

  11. Kittle better get used to blocking when Lance tucks it to run after seeing his first read covered or getting balls anxiously thrown his way during scramble drills because Lance is Kaepernick 2.0 when it comes to reading defenses. Jimmy’s legacy would be far different if he played for a coach that doesn’t have a history of choking when it mattered most.

  12. Why do people always hate on Jimmi G.?? he’s a proven winner with great stats. Sit the kid Lance until further notice.This was a terrible pick by the 49 ers anyway.

  13. @ 9ersfathful:
    I couldn’t possibly care less if Kittle dodged the question.
    I think it’s silly that he was asked about a situation that he’s not going to be the one making the decision.
    And his rambling, word salad of an answer didn’t really answer anything, did it?

  14. Maybe don’t toss them up someone will get hurt that way, football is already a sport where you can jam a thumb or even break a toe

  15. An experienced QB, that has gotten you to the SB already, is a toss up compared to a guy who can throw 70 yards? Just keep em both one more year.

  16. This must be the time of year when beat writers and fans look for something to talk about. I trust Shanahan will make the right decision. Even if Lance turns out to be this horrendous QB that most here seem to think he will be, I think the Niners will pick up a another veteran if they release Jimmy. The Niners are ready for success right now, so letting a rookie sit a few years seems fine. The draft picks traded are lost, I think Shanahan and Lynch are looking only at the future, and winning a Super Bowl. And so far, even with a hobbled and unreliable Jimmy, the Niners are remaining competitive.

  17. Here’s what I know from watching the 49ers for the last 4 years.
    Jimmy G plays= 49ers good.
    Jimmy G doesn’t play= 49ers bad.
    I don’t know if I see that formula changing anytime soon.

  18. I like Little. Even if he does look like the black sheep of the Baldwin brothers, he’s an awesome dude!

  19. The problem is not Jimmy. The problem is the head coach. Shanahan’s career record is 43-44, with very questionable play calling as an OC for the Falcons, up 28-3 in the 4th quarter in the Super Bowl vs the Patriots and eventually losing 34-28. Same vs the Chiefs…up 20-10 in the 4th and eventually losing 31-20. Jeff Fisher, known as a middling coach and is now coaching in the USFL, had a record of 173-165. Clara should relegate Shanahan and give him a seat at the kids table.

  20. I “GET IT” what Lynch was trying to do by moving up for a QB in the draft,… but in hindsight he created an awkward situation for Shanahan, himself, and both QB’s. Sure,… they’ll figure it out,… but I think Lance needs another year to figure it all out too. He kinda reminds me of Kaepernick to be honest.

  21. George Kittle: Experienced Jimmy Garoppolo vs. raw Trey Lance is a “toss-up for me”

    So Kittle calls having a QB who has >30 starts vs a QB with just 2 starts a TOSS UP? And yet again a player opens their mouth and shows how little knowledge they have of the game they play for a living!

    This reminds me of when there was a TIE a couple of years ago and a whole lot of players said “I didn’t know there could be a TIE”, DUH!

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