The guarantees on Jimmy Garoppolo’s deal are gone after this year, and San Francisco should be fine without him. Kyle Shanahan would also be a popular coach for any QB on the market.
Much to the delight of a still-reeling Packers defense, the version of the San Francisco 49ers they’ll face on Thursday is barely reminiscent of the team that gouged Green Bay for 6.8 yards per carry and 285 total rushing yards in the NFC Championship a year ago, with a game plan so devastating that Jimmy Garoppolo only needed to attempt eight passes.
Injuries have gutted the 49ers’ Super Bowl-caliber roster in 2020, though not in the we’ll be back next year once everyone gets healthy kind of way. Kyle Shanahan is running one of the most desirable schemes in football, an offense that has contemporary tentacles in Green Bay, Tennessee and Los Angeles with plenty of less effective knockoffs elsewhere. He has the alignment with his personnel department to make sweeping moves should he see fit. And, if the veteran quarterback shuffle begins early this offseason (not to mention if the 49ers sink low enough to land one of the top quarterbacks in the draft), Shanahan would be considered a destination for both quarterbacks and other satellite skill position players looking to rack up wins and receptions.
So the question becomes: Is the one thing we may be able to glean from tonight’s game that there is a life without Garoppolo sooner than we think? Is the version of the 49ers that routed the Packers in Santa Clara in January simply a stepping stone toward something much more powerful?
It’s not a new or novel concept to point out that Shanahan has solid relationships (and excellent results) with some of the better veteran quarterbacks in the league who are also entering equally tenuous situations with their own clubs. Kirk Cousins’s contract is prohibitive, but the Vikings could be inching toward a natural reset point if their 2020 skid continues, making the Shanahan disciple expendable. Matt Ryan is a year away from being infinitely more get-able via trade, given his current contract setup, though no one knows how a new general manager and head coach are going to interpret the Falcons’ roster.
But I would add any good quarterback with a potential out in their contract as a possible suitor. Dak Prescott would be doing himself a disservice if he didn’t at least explore the option; if he thought the run game in Dallas was complementary, imagine something far more powerful and sustainable with skill position players who make a living throttling yards after catch totals. Sam Darnold, who could be extremely affordable and available in the coming weeks if the Jets continue to sink toward Trevor Lawrence, would be a high-upside project for Shanahan to take on if he couldn’t land one of the big fish of his choosing. Derek Carr, whose coach previously flirted with the idea of signing Tom Brady and drafting Kyler Murray, is also a talented wild card with very little dead cap space remaining on his deal after this year.
The point is that Shanahan will have no shortage of options and, based on his prior performances like the one against Green Bay in last year’s playoffs, no shortage of clout when it comes to picking his next quarterback or deciding to keep the one he has. Now that the guarantees on Garoppolo’s deal are gone, the floodgates should be open to this kind of thinking, with the understanding that, beyond a lucrative contract, the promise of a productive and amenable quarterback-coach relationship is probably next on a lot of peoples’ wishlists.
Look around the league at all of the settled quarterback situations elsewhere and find one that is more promising than the one currently developing in Santa Clara.