And the student becomes the teacher. Or the backup becomes the QB1 and the QB1 becomes the QB2.
In a move that surprised, well, pretty much everybody, the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo agreed on a restructured contract that keeps Garoppolo with the team another season, a season in which he will be Trey Lance’s backup.
“…[Y]esterday was a really good day for this organization,” said 49ers general manager John Lynch in a Tuesday conference call with the Bay Area media. “It was because of our belief in our team, as it’s currently constructed, that we wanted to add another piece and it was from in-house with Jimmy and we’re really pleased that we were able to do it. It took everyone’s cooperation. It took a lot of patience and we feel that was rewarded.”
Though on Jan. 30 it seemed that Garoppolo was ready for a fresh start, an offseason shoulder surgery halted any potential trade talks. As training camp and the NFL preseason went on, it became more and more clear that there was not a market for a Garoppolo trade and everyone got thinking.
“…Kyle and I just started floating the idea probably a month ago,” Lynch said. “What if we kept them here in a backup capacity and at some point, we shared that with Jimmy. It was important for Kyle to let Trey know that that may be a possibility…We waited out, but we had been in communication and then, it kind of came to fruition yesterday morning and it was finished slightly after we got off the practice field.”
As mentioned above, there was the whole business of telling Lance that the man he replaced was not being traded or released, but that he was instead staying in Santa Clara as the 49ers’ QB2.
“Trey was great,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “There were no problems with it at all. I told him the exact same things that I told Jimmy. The option of bringing Jimmy here, that it had to be in a backup-type deal, which Jimmy knew that was his option and that was the only option. And we told that to Trey also. Trey and Jimmy have a great relationship. Trey actually likes having Jimmy in the building and Trey was very grateful to how Jimmy was to him last year. And we feel very strongly from the two people that Jimmy will give that back to Trey this year. He’ll do for Trey, what Jimmy did for him in the year before.”
From the beginning of training camp onward, Shanahan had made it clear that the team is now “Trey’s team.” With this latest development, one could wonder if he’s still as strong in his conviction. He is.
“That’s why Trey is our starting quarterback,” Shanahan said. “That’s why Jimmy wasn’t an option unless he came in as a backup role. And that didn’t become an option until it was clear that, at least so far, no one was giving him the exact opportunity. Yeah, this doesn’t change anything and I just feel it makes us a much better team…”
It’s hard to imagine that this dynamic won’t invite just a little bit of drama, but it’s not something the 49ers seem overly concerned about it.
“I just think that’s the reality of that position in this job,” Shanahan said. “…I don’t believe that that stuff has an effect on whether a guy succeeds or not. I think it’s what he does in here and what he does on the field. Jimmy dealt with that from the drama…outside of the building, he dealt with that every single game last year because we drafted a young guy. So every time we lost, he heard it, it was from the narrative and everybody because that’s the position, it’s the quarterback’s fault…
“We feel very strongly giving the keys to Trey…[W]e’re excited about everything he’s done and all these opportunities he’s gotten throughout this offseason…[H]aving Jimmy there as a backup makes us feel really good, because we have a starting quarterback as a backup. The rest of the league had a chance to get him and I just so feel so fortunate that he’s still here in that case. And in no way does that hurt our team. It’s only helped our team.”
In other quarterback news, rookie Brock Purdy became very relevant and will serve as San Francisco’s QB3, leaving Nate Sudfeld as the odd man out.
But back to Lance and Garoppolo. The 49ers have two starting-caliber quarterbacks, and that’s a good thing.
“There aren’t 32 starting quarterbacks in this league and we believe we have two of them now,” Shanahan said.
Let’s see how this all plays out.