Imagine this: The San Francisco 49ers win Sunday and go on to win Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13. A little more than four weeks later, just as the champagne hangover may finally be wearing off, Jimmy Garoppolo is officially traded to another team.
We've never seen it before. Trent Dilfer is the only Super Bowl-winning QB to be with another team the following year, and that was after the Ravens decided against re-signing him. This would be the Niners actively trading their Super Bowl-winning quarterback to another team and moving forward with 2021 No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance.
Yes, even if the 49ers win out this postseason, I still believe Garoppolo will be traded. In fact, winning out would make the likelihood of a trade even higher, as if it could go any higher than it already is.
Garoppolo, head coach Kyle Shanahan and just about everyone in that building knows that short of something wildly unforeseen, Garoppolo won't be in San Francisco after this postseason.
"It's been that way for a while, since we made that trade and the more that we all can accept it and know it and not beat around the bush, the easier it is to go on with your jobs," Shanahan said earlier this week when asked if this could be Garoppolo's last ride with the Niners. "And that's what we've all done and we've all enjoyed each other as people, we all respect the hell of each other in our profession. And I think it's just allowed everyone to move on and be themselves.
"And I think throughout the year, that's allowed him to get better, it's allowed our team to get better, it's allowed me to get better and focus on what we should focus on and just trying to be as good at our jobs as we can."
The job will be Lance's next year. But despite what the fans and some media may have thought, there has never been an internal push to exchange Garoppolo for Lance this season. The competition wasn't close in training camp, hasn't been close during the season and, short of a historic struggle in a remaining game, won't be close this postseason.
Garoppolo has been good enough to not lose the Niners these two playoff games, but he hasn't necessarily been good. He's thrown several interceptable passes (getting two actually picked) while completing just 61% of his passes for a measly 6.9 yards per attempt.
What would he go for? The Niners have inherent leverage in having a 30-year-old capable quarterback who can get you to the playoffs (and possibly win a Super Bowl.) But the world knows they're going to trade him, so their leverage takes a hit there. His injury history doesn't help, either. If he wins the Super Bowl, you'd probably have to give up a late first-rounder if you're in competition with another team. Short of that, a Day 2 pick would do the job. Perhaps a pick hinging on future playing percentage -- like the conditional first-rounder Indy sent to Philly for Carson Wentz -- would be what it takes.
Garoppolo has one year left on his deal with a cap hit of $26.9 million. That doesn't really matter since any team trading a Day 1 or 2 pick for him would sign him to a new deal that would lower that cap hit in 2022 anyway. The Niners would, in theory, be more inclined to trade him to the AFC rather than the NFC.
Houston could easily give up a first-round pick. Pittsburgh just showed they only need a quarterback who throws short of the sticks and plays well in the fourth quarter to get to the playoffs, and Garoppolo would be an improvement over the Ben Roethlisberger of the past three or so years. Denver could look his way if a trade for Aaron Rodgers can't materialize.
The NFC teams offer a number of ifs, ands and buts for him to land there. Like if New Orleans can get far enough under the cap, and if Washington misses on a top-tier QB, and if Tom Brady retires, or if Carolina can't nab Deshaun Watson
It benefits the 49ers to get this trade done quickly if they win Sunday and beyond. Not unlike the Alex Smith trade from Kansas City to Washington, this deal would be worked out well before the start of free agency to not compete with the potential Rodgers/Watson/Russell Wilson sweepstakes.
Giants closing in on head coach
The Giants could make a move on a head coach as early as Friday evening following their last interview with Leslie Frazier.
New York has committed to a wide-open process, but Bills OC Brian Daboll has been handicapped as the favorite from the minute Joe Schoen was brought aboard. Patrick Graham will one day be a head coach. There may not be a better human in the NFL than Frazier. And for all their vetting on Brian Flores, it'd be difficult for the Giants to bring in someone with his interpersonal skills following two years with Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge together.
With the Dolphins taking a second round of interviews into the weekend, the Giants won't have to pounce on Daboll ASAP if he's their pick. But I'd imagine, out of this group of candidates, New York will have its guy by the end of day Saturday.
Baalke dynamic sticking point for Leftwich
The Jaguars may very well have to restart their head coaching search now despite getting a four-week head start following Urban Meyer's firing.
Byron Leftwich, considered to be the front-runner for the position, has fundamental differences with GM Trent Baalke, and I'm not sure the two of them will be able to work it out. Even if they can, the fact that it's rocky before they are working together indicates it won't get better if and when they do begin working together. The other two finalists -- Nathaniel Hackett (Denver) and Matt Eberflus (Chicago) -- were hired on Thursday.
Fair or not, this is a reflection of the reputation Baalke has developed around the league. Folks outside the building don't want to work with/for him. What Shad Khan had been warned about is becoming true, yet he sticks with Baalke in the face of this.
What I can tell you won't happen is Leftwich comes to Jacksonville with his handpicked GM in Cardinals executive Adrian Wilson. There are reports that Leftwich wants to pair with Wilson, but the herculean task of getting Baalke canned won't come with an instant installation of Wilson no matter what. The league has rules against that, and the Rooney Rule can't be circumvented even if it's for a Black head coach bringing on a Black GM.
Conference championship picks
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)
I've picked against the Bengals this entire playoffs. They've proven me wrong each week (obviously.) Well ... why stop now? Especially when the Chiefs have the greatest young QB the game has ever seen.
The pick: Chiefs
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox | Stream: fuboTV (click here)
When these two teams have met in their second game each of the past three seasons, the Niners have won them each by a field goal as time expired. It's uncanny. It's hard to beat a good team three times, and I just don't see it happening this weekend.
The pick: Rams