Either the days of Jimmy Garoppolo putting on a San Francisco 49ers uniform are numbered, or head coach Kyle Shanahan is the greatest master manipulator of all time. Realistically speaking, while not entirely ruling out the possibility Shanahan is secretly Dr. Claw, the organization's decision to mortgage their future in a blockbuster pre-draft trade with the Miami Dolphins indicates the 49ers are preparing to say goodbye to Garoppolo. In sending the Dolphins the No. 12 pick in 2021, a first- and third-round pick in 2022 and a first-round pick in 2023 to move up to No. 3 this April, the 49ers aren't even remotely pretending they didn't do it to select a quarterback.
Instead, they're framing it as competition at the position while holding firm they have no willingness to trade Garoppolo, who's also set to hit the team's salary cap for $26.4 million this coming season, and has only two seasons remaining on his five-year, $137.5 million contract awarded to him in 2018. So, how does Garoppolo feel about the trade? Well, he hasn't broken his silence regarding it just yet, but Shanahan believes he knows exactly what his quarterback is thinking.
"I'm sure Jimmy was a little pissed off from it, just like I'd be, too," Shanahan told reporters, via The Mercury News. "But me knowing Jimmy, he'll be fired up and come in and work his butt off. The more mad Jimmy gets, usually the better he gets. So if he gets madder and stays healthy, this is going to be a good thing for Jimmy, too, which could be a great problem for the 49ers.
"I hope Jimmy's alright with it and I expect him to be."
Talk about a loaded statement, one that hints at the 49ers wanting to push Garoppolo to improve while knowing it could only serve to increase his value in a 2022 trade scenario because, let's be honest, no team uses a top 5 pick on a quarterback only to award the incumbent another big-money contract a year or so later -- San Francisco knowing full well that's the reality. Garoppolo knows it as well, which is why he's likely so "pissed off", as Shanahan so eloquently noted.
He contends he still wants Garoppolo leading the charge in 2021, though.
"We've got a guy in here we know we can win with -- a guy that our players love, that we love," Shanahan said. "We're excited to have him this year, and we're excited to have a hell of a quarterback right behind him, learning for when the time's his."
When exactly would that time be?
Theoretically speaking, the 49ers could follow a model that keeps Garoppolo as QB1 for the coming season while allowing the third overall pick to learn/develop behind him for a season before unleashing him -- something the league has seen time and again in the past (with mixed levels of success). One example of this in particular is when Patrick Mahomes (the guy who defeated the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV) was selected with the 10th overall pick in 2017 by the Kansas City Chiefs, despite Alex Smith having led them to the playoffs in the two previous seasons.
It turned Smith from franchise guy to a lame duck, and he was traded the next year to the Washington Football Team. And if you're expecting Shanahan to shy away from this example to prevent Garoppolo from being labeled a lame duck himself, try again. If anything, he damn near rubber stamped it.
"That's a good example, the most obvious example of having a really good quarterback, drafting a young guy, having success and moving on the next year," he said.
Should that be the 49ers' eventual play here -- obviously praying the rookie becomes the next NFL sensation at the position -- the name of the game would be to find a suitor next offseason to give up assets to land Garoppolo, but there's still a great chance someone comes calling before or during this year's draft to try to pry him away. And it's well within the realm of possibility to believe the 49ers are secretly hoping they do, their public affection for Garoppolo being little more than an attempt to drive up the asking price in a situation where everyone knows they're about to replace him.
But despite how direct the 49ers are being about their draft intention, they remain in lockstep when it comes to maintaining their want of retaining the 29-year-old for at least one more year (if only one more year).
"We went to ownership and said, 'Hey, things are looking good, we'd like to make this move but we also don't want to say goodbye to Jimmy,'" general manager John Lynch said. "We've shown we can get to a Super Bowl with him. We can play at a high level, and we don't think those two things have to be mutually exclusive."
No, they don't have to be, but considering how much time Garoppolo has missed in his NFL career due to injury, the lingering disappointment from his performance in Super Bowl LIV, his looming combined cap hit of $53.4 million over the next two seasons and how much the 49ers gave up to draft his successor in a few weeks -- they likely are.