The San Francisco 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo under contract for at least another two seasons, and the veteran quarterback is still less than a year removed from leading his team to the Super Bowl. As the 2021 offseason fast approaches, however, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is not committing to Garoppolo as the Niners' future signal-caller. Asked Monday about Garoppolo's prospects of remaining San Francisco's starter, Shanahan defended the QB's resume and salary but refused to rule out pursuing a replacement.
"You can't say anything with certainty," the coach told reporters, per ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "You don't sit here and make promises on anything. When you build a football team, it's your job to put the best team together year in and year out."
Shanahan, to his credit, opened the dialogue by saying he believes Garoppolo "is going to be our quarterback next year." But his other remarks, which came in response to questions about his certainty in Garoppolo's job security, said more about San Francisco's apparent openness to a change. In long-winded defenses of Garoppolo's contract, a $137.5 million pact that the Niners can get out of with minimal penalty as early as this offseason, Shanahan ended up offering tepid endorsements.
"People talk about Jimmy's salary," he said. "Jimmy is like one of the middle quarterbacks in the league right now in terms of salary. That's just how much they cost. So it's not like it's something ridiculous or anything like that, so we can work all that out. And, not to mention, look at Jimmy's record when he's been here. Jimmy you can win with. He's proven that. He's proven he's a starting quarterback in this league."
Positive words, yes, but hardly an unwavering loyalty to Garoppolo. We can work all that out. Jimmy you can win with. Niners fans can't be blamed if they read into those comments as Shanahan trying to talk himself into the possibility of Garoppolo's return. Franchise QBs, we know, aren't just guys you can win with. They're guys you want to win for you.
Too much speculation of Shanahan's words? Perhaps. But the Niners' actions say otherwise. San Francisco openly admitted a potential pursuit of Tom Brady ahead of the 2020 season, signaling they've been open to replacing Garoppolo as the face of the franchise since long before this year's injury-riddled campaign. And while Shanahan cautioned that teams must be careful when trying to replace proven players, like Garoppolo, he also didn't close the door on another pursuit of other QBs in 2021.
"You look into every avenue and you see if there's something out there that can get you a ton better," he said. "That's the same answer for every position, but you look at Jimmy, look what he's done, look where he's at financially, we better have a very good answer if you're going to find something better than that. Jimmy has shown in one year that he's the guy who can take us to the Super Bowl, and I also think that Jimmy is going to get a lot better the more he plays."