Donte Whitner: ‘Do you really want to let Garoppolo leave?’

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) passes against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Former 49er and three-time Pro Bowl safety Donte Whitner has never shied away from sharing his feelings on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Currently working as a 49ers analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, Whitner joined the TKB Show on KNBR Tuesday afternoon.

During the discussion, Whitner was asked about what the way Jimmy Garoppolo handled this year and the possibility of him being replaced meant to the football team.

“It means a lot. He’s a tremendous leader,” responded Whitner.

“For anybody that’s competing with somebody in professional sports, it’s tough to take the field every day, be the first guy in for meetings, the guy that doesn’t make the mistakes in practice, consistently play well and have to look over your shoulder.

“Then to go address the media and keep a certain type of aura about you around your teammates, it takes a lot.”

Whitner went on to discuss the success the 49ers have achieved with Garoppolo on the field in recent years.

“When you think about it, if Jimmy Garoppolo wins this game on Sunday, it would mean he’s taken the 49ers to the Super Bowl twice in three years.

“Do you really want to let that quarterback walk out of the locker room whether he wins the Super Bowl or he doesn’t?

“Do you really want to let him leave in preparation for Trey Lance? There’s no guarantee that Trey Lance will continue to get better and can lead the team like Jimmy Garoppolo did.”

One of the reasons many pointed to for Garoppolo continuing as the 49ers quarterback in 2021 despite the draft capital given up for Trey Lance has been his influence in the locker room. Whitner addressed this from his own experience.

“In the locker room, we’re never thinking about draft picks,” said Whitner.

“We’re thinking about ‘Hey, how are we going to win right now? Who gives us the best opportunity, who are we comfortable with?’ When we look at the guys in the locker room, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, George Kittle, Jauan Jennings, all of those guys are having great years with Jimmy Garoppolo. Do you think they want to change quarterbacks?”

With Garoppolo as their starting quarterback, the 49ers have gone 35-15 and reached at least the NFC Championship Game during both seasons. Whitner recognizes this and what Garoppolo needs to work on.

“The offense that Kyle Shanahan has crafted takes efficiency. It’s almost like a trick offense where you’re taking advantage of the defense. If Jimmy can just cut down on those turnover worthy plays, he can consistently keep the 49ers at this level of play.”

During his Wednesday press conference. Kyle Shanahan was asked about his approach to helping Garoppolo reduce the turnovers and if throwing the ball away more often is something the coach would like from his quarterback.

“I think one of the hardest things with Jimmy is when people are covered, he believes he can just put the ball in the right spot, which he does a lot,” Shanahan said.

“The throw to Jauan Jennings on third and five that we were hot, he didn’t have time to throw that ball. And somehow, he created it, which is one of the most talented throws I’ve ever seen and Jauan ended up dropping it. That was unbelievable. Was it the best decision? It was, because it was right on the money, but that’s the stuff not many can pull off and that is risky. So that’s a fine line when you have someone as talented a thrower as Jimmy, that he doesn’t feel the same way always in the heat of the battle that he can’t make that throw.

“Now when you watch it on tape and stuff, then he’ll see it. But you’re not thinking about that when you’re playing a sport. You’re just reacting. And those are the things that I try to put him in better situations, and sometimes when it doesn’t go the right way, yeah, it’s disappointing. But I can’t tell you how many times that I don’t think anyone’s open and there is no play to be made and we need to make one or the game’s gonna be over and he finds a way to make it. And I’m not then saying, ‘Hey don’t do that.’ I’m thanking him for that and that’s playing quarterback in this league, so it goes both ways.”

This article has 50 Comments

  1. Yes, please do whatever you have to, to trade him to another team. Cut him if necessary. When the 49ers traded for Trey Lance, they made their decision. You can’t change it now.

  2. When Garoppolo misses badly on a 5 yard pass and throws a pick midway through the 4th qtr up by 13 to give the Cowboys new life in a game that should be a blowout then YES – I want Garoppolo to be traded.

    When Garoppolo throws late to George Kittle at the goal line for an interception on a potential score that would have tied the game with 1 minute remaining in the 1st half of a playoff game against the Packers then YES – I want Garoppolo to be traded.

    When Garoppolo throws a 14 yard TD to tie the game with 28 seconds left in the 4th qtr to lead the 49ers to an improbable comeback win showing tremendous leadership, grit, and heart against the Rams to even make the playoffs then YES – I want Garoppolo to be traded but I know I’ll miss him just a little bit.

    1. There’s been a lot of articles and some tweets from players (Sherman, for example) about how great a leader Jimmy G is. I hope he gets the respect he deserves in his new home. Further, I really hope that TL can step up. If he can’t, I can only imagine what the discussions will be like on this blog and others next year at this time.

      1. It’s strange how some fans can only look at the negative and apparently don’t have the ability to see the forest thru the trees. They’ll be the first to turn on Trey Lance when he makes a mistake which of course he will.

  3. During the first half of the season, Whitner was calling for Garoppolo to be benched in favor of Trey Lance. I wonder why he flip-flopped on this important issue, and I also wonder why that fact wasn’t mentioned in this article. I think it’s wrong to use the wishy-washy Whitner as an expert witness to bolster the argument of this article.

    1. The first time I heard him flip on this was around Christmas when he was filling in as a host on KNBR. It caught me by surprise as well given the way he was calling so hard for Lance to play over Garoppolo early on during the season. I have my suspicions on why he’s flipped, but nothing solid so I just kept it to what was actually said.

      1. I just listened to the interview with Donte Whitner on KNBR. If the interviewers were good journalists, they would have asked, “Donte, you were saying for weeks that Trey Lance should replace Garoppolo. That’s quite a 180. Why did you change your mind?”

  4. Nice seeing Kyle dispense such praise on Jimmy. He’s deserved it. While the inability to make deep throws or throws outside the numbers has been discussed ad nauseam, you can’t argue with his late game success and ability to put mistakes behind him.

    I hope he has the games of his life the next two games. Despite the fans’ somewhat polarized view of Jimmy’s skill set, you can’t help but want to root for the guy who has come into a very difficult situation and handled it with class and inspired his teammates, while showing an uncanny leadership quality.

    I don’t know too many leaders who have been told they’re fired and still able to lead effectively, in any industry.

  5. Niners kept Jimmy when they could afford to do so because he has given them the best chance to win.

    Niners will let Jimmy go because they won’t be able to afford his salary next season.

    Just like with Buck, nothing personal — a business decision, and NFL is a business.

    1. Exactly a big part of the reason that they traded up for Lance was to create cap space by having a QB (highest paid position) on a rookie deal. It wasn’t as much to do with Lance being the guy they wanted.

      1. That makes absolutely no sense. The quarterback is far and away the most important person on the team and you pay them according to their talent and if you have to let someone else go because you can’t afford it! So be it. As much as I like Jimmy, they drafted Lance because they think he’ll be a better quarterback and if he is, they’ll pay him highly and they will let some good player walk because they can’t afford them. It’s all about the quarterback in this league.

        1. That’s the thing when you have a QB on a rookie deal you don’t have to pay them for their talent. Mahomes has been the best QB for the last 4 years and his cap hit hasn’t been over $10 million yet.

          Sure after 4 more years Lance has the chance to be significantly better than Jimmy G and if so the 49ers will have no problem paying him $35+ million per year.

    2. Mood: Agree that the NFL is a business. However, there was another option that would have allowed them to keep Jimmy G next year. Pick Mac Jones instead of Trey Lance. Wouldn’t have had to give up a net 2 first round picks.

      But they made the business decision to pick TL. That’s fine, but be prepared to incur the wrath if TL doesn’t pan out; the loss of two first round picks makes it imperative that he is much better than an average QB. Personally, I hope that KS doesn’t feel that pressure and transfer it onto TL right away. Everyone knows KS is hard on QBs. Jimmy had been in the league at least a few years and he handled it. Hopefully TL will be able to as well.

      1. “Pick Mac Jones instead of Trey Lance. Wouldn’t have had to give up a net 2 first round picks. ”

        Kyle had made it clear that he would swing for the fences if he saw a potential top-5 QB available in the draft or FA. Their action shows that ShanaLynch did not believe that Mac Jones was the answer but Lance may be.

        ” That’s fine, but be prepared to incur the wrath if TL doesn’t pan out; ”
        Whose wrath? Jed York’s? You think ShanaLynch give a rat’s rear what random fans feel about their player evaluation?

        If I were Jed I’d be extending ShanaLynch this off-season. Have you seen the sorry coaching and FO situation in the NFC?

        1. If Trey Lance doesn’t become a good/great QB within a couple of years, then the 49ers won’t be appreciably better than they are now, and will not win a SB.

          At that point Shanahan will be in a very difficult position. The media noise will harp on him trading so many assets to acquire Lance instead of Mac Jones, or simply acquiring another QB to push Garoppolo. With JG they’ve made 2 NFC Championship appearances in 3 years. But the NFC is getting more competitive, not less – even with a top-tier QB, 2 NFC Championship appearances in 3 years will be a tall order going forward.

          So the stakes are raising, and 2022-3 will be legacy-defining for Shanahan. As long as Lance is a decent starter next year and they make the playoffs, all is good. If Lance doesn’t work out or they don’t make the playoffs, then, well…

  6. I’m the biggest Garoppolo homer and I will tell you there is no way in hell he is back next year.

    Need Extensions:
    Deebo
    Greenlaw
    McGlinchey

    Free Agents:
    Tomlinson
    Tartt
    Jones
    Key
    Willis
    Street

    Don’t forget Lance cap hit is $7 million and Bosa is $10 million

  7. This is what’s called “being a prisoner of the moment.” I haven’t forgotten about Jimmy botching Tennessee or giving Dallas a second life or his proneness to injury for that matter. Yeah, he’s been great at times, but given what we’ve seen from Lance and the potential benefit from clearing Jimmy’s salary, the plan to start him next year was sound imo.

    1. 12/29 – Donte Whitner on KNBR, “The #49ers did the right thing by riding with Jimmy Garoppolo this year.”

      1. It’s hard to challenge success. Could we have gotten to where we are with Trey at the helm? Maybe not, but we’ll never know. The team as a whole has gotten more than a bit better. Blossoming of Deebo; better Aiyuk, Jennings and right side of the line; a healthy Tarrt; substantial improvement in Key, Willis, Mosely and Thomas. If Jimmy played this season the way he did in 2019, the team as it now stands might be able to beat the one in 2019. That might be an interesting article for you.

        You’ve turned into a heck of a columnist, Jack. Love your videos too.

  8. The won lost record is why people can’t make a valid argument to replace Garoppolo. Some on Twitter make idiots of themselves trying to make a case that a 21 year old kid who hasn’t played much in 3 years should start but the HC and his teammates know Garoppolo is the guy who gives them their best chance to win. My guess is Whitner’s changed his tune because he sees how this team gets behind their QB and how they just seem to win more often than not when he’s in there. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to it like last week in GB, but as Shanny said, he just seems to be able to make the play when it needs to be made and that is the best reasoning for it I’ve heard. The stats aren’t always going to be great but he seems to be there when they need it and takes them down for the winning TD facing elimination in LA or the winning FG in a snow globe in GB. Sometimes it just is what it is and this team wins a lot of games when Garoppolo plays and not many when he doesn’t.

    As for next year, there really is no way they can keep him even if they want to. As has already been pointed out the cap is strapped and they are going to need his money freed up to keep this team in contention. They could have kept him with a new deal, but that was off the table as soon as they drafted Lance. I think Lance has a bright future but nothing is guaranteed and if he flames out all these Lance fan boys will be the first ones to turn on him and the team for drafting him.

    1. They can keep him next year if they are willing to push money to future years when the salary cap is expected to go up dramatically.

      1. I thought about that but they are already doing that for a few other players so I’m not sure they would want to go that route. I guess it would really come down to whether they truly feel Lance is ready to take over and how keeping Garoppolo would affect the team they put together next year.

  9. Well first off, Jimmy has not taken the team anywhere. The team hauled his turnover prone ass to the Super Bowl in 2019 and to the Championship Game this year. It has been decades since we have seen a QB that has contributed less to his teams winning in the playoffs than Jimmy.

    Second, Jimmy will never stop making turnovers. I was thinking about the Jimmy we saw in 2017, and I remember being excited, but he did throw lots and lots of passes into very tight windows. He threaded the needle many times with some great throws, but he also had a high interception ratio and left dropped interceptions on the field every game. Jimmy is the exact same guy today, he throws into tight windows all the time, but feel he has now lost a bit of the zip because his footwork is so sloppy. Also EVERYONE knows what time does, it’s amazing the every team doesn’t pack the middle defensively challenging him to throw outside.

    Personally I am at the point were I don’t even care if Trey Lance isn’t the dude, it is past time to move on from Jimmy. He literally can’t play 5 games without getting injured, and his game hasn’t ever really evolved. I have hope that Lance is the real deal, but even if he isn’t it’s time to move on from Jimmy. The Niners win despite Jimmy, not because of him. He does have some unexplained mojo, but I have no trust that it will continue. Even when Jimmy plays well, most of his good plays are things that any average starting QB can do. His immobility is dreadful, combined with a stunning inability to throw the wall away when under pressure constantly puts the offense in tough situations.

    Thanks for your efforts Jimmy, but it’s time to move on after the season.

    1. He is the only QB they win with so saying they win despite him makes no sense. 3 weeks ago he led them to a tying TD with a little over a minute left in the game then did the same thing in OT leading them to the winning FG. He was a big part of winning that game. If you listen to the players and Coaches he also gives them the intangibles to winning. You will get your wish but I don’t understand the Jimmy G critics logic and never will.

    2. So your saying the 49ers are in the NFCCG and have won 12 games in spite of the player playing the most important position on the field? That’s impossible.

      1. James I’m not sure if you remember how the Seahawks won their SB. Russell Wilson was good BUT they surrounded him with a heckuva defense, the best RB in the game, and some good WR’s. The Ravens did the same thing in both of their SB’s. I have no clue what to do with Jimmy, but if we get rid of him surround TL with the best defense money can buy, a RB that doesn’t get injured, and another dominant wideout and let’s go.

    3. This is overstated. Jimmy G has been the most successful QB for the 49ers under KS – that can not be disputed. Of course, others might have done better but we can only go with the info we have.

      I keep reading that Jimmy is immobile. I would like to point out that Jimmy has a quick release so doesn’t need to be as mobile as Lance. Lance is slower to make a decision and throw and will need the mobility. Just wait until next year when he faces the rush that Jimmy has to deal with now. If they don’t fix the right side of the line, look for Lance to be sacked quite a bit.

      Finally, it’s funny how with Alex we all wished he would take a few more risks and now with Jimmy we have the gunslinger and many wish for an Alex game manager. Still, some of the mistakes Jimmy G makes are maddening given that he has been 8 years in the league.

      1. This is a great comment.

        2nd paragraph – Yes if Lance would have started he would have suffered due to Tom Compton playing RT and fine the narrative would have been “well what would Jimmy G have done? He’s a statue”

        3rd paragraph – absolutely spot on, thank you for sharing, hopefully others read and take note.

      2. Agree with everything except for the part “look for Lance to be sacked quite a bit.”
        Whatever little I see of Lance indicates that he’s quickly learning to move within the pocket adequately to neutralize pass rush.
        I was astonished that Lance had noticeably modified his throwing motion between the pre-season games and his second regular season game. I did not think that was possible for a QB during the season. Being on the bench may have given him that opportunity to focus on his mechanics.

        1. Ya Jack has been writing all year about how and why he was developing during the season. He is mobile and elusive but he no doubt would have taken a fair amount of sacks, based on a number of factors.

      3. Good points cubus. Jimmy has always been a little reckless but it’s now taken on a life of it’s own since the Thursday night in Nashville. That was a national TV game and he threw two bad picks the second coming after his thumb injury. Since that time it’s been Jimmy being Jimmy time for national media to the point it’s gone hyperbolic. Yes he’s thrown some bad passes but he’s playing through something that has sidelined QB’s in the past like Brees a few years ago who missed more than a month with a similar injury. It’s obvious he isn’t 100 percent and some throws come out looking ugly, but he’s leading his team and they love him for playing even though he isn’t healthy and has a questionable future at best with the club. That is a big part in the success this team is having right now imo.

    4. Milleneum. Completely ridiculous. There isn’t anyone other than 49reasons who would believe what you just wrote. You don’t have to hate on someone just because they don’t meet your ridiculous standards.

  10. Steve De Berg will play just good enough to get you beat – Bill Walsh

    Jimmy Garoppolo will play just good enough to get you a win – Kyle Shanahan

  11. There is a third path I’ve not heard discussed much. Let Jimmy play out his last contract year (2022),
    while getting Trey way more real game experience, and another year of NFL level weight room work coaching and training. Really work him into games, or in relief, he’s only 21 and could really use it.
    No matter what happens this weekend, next year we will have to roll out something a bit different. Just too much film on us now. Of course if we are offered a top player or 1st round draft choice we probably have to take it.
    Don’t give up on that 1st rounder, there are some VERY quarterback needy teams out there!

    1. This is a possibility although they have a lot of free agents and they have to extend Deebo. Even if they extend Deebo at a low cap hit, it would be higher than what he is getting paid now. Jimmy staying with the 49ers would involve an extension at a lower cap hit which does not make a lot of sense. They also have to extend DJ Jones who might be pricier than some would think considering what Vita Vea just got paid.

  12. Didn’t have anything to do with Jimmy’s own coach and his lack of trust in him. Or the new schemes that Kyle can come up with as Lance [ arm and wheels ] as his new toy? If it wasn’t much to do with Lance being the guy they wanted, then why didn’t he stay at their own draft spot and take a Q.B with a lower rookie cap hit?

    Sorry, but your statement made me up chuck my coffee! Looking forward to your next post on how to stay under the salary cap.

    1. Well, the trade was executed to acquire Mac Jones before Bellicheck could get him first. And I’m sure if they’d done that, they’d try to trade Garoppolo back to the Pats as a “thank you for the loan”.

      But somebody (Lynch?) convinced Shanahan that Jones wasn’t an appreciable upgrade from Jimmy G, and so they swung for the fences looking for “upside”, which brought them to Lance or Fields, and keeping Jimmy G around one year.

  13. People couldn’t wait to get rid of Alex. Who would they love to have now for this team?
    We’ll see who we will miss next year, Jimmie or Trey…..

    1. Yeah that is the 26 million dollar question. If they get rid of Garoppolo who is a proven winner they had better be confident that Lance is the guy and there really is no way to know that yet.

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