Steve Young: Can Jimmy Garoppolo be 49ers 10-year guy?

Kyle Shanahan thought he was done with Jimmy Garoppolo.

The 49ers head coach spent all offseason talking about moving on from the veteran signal-caller in favor of Trey Lance.

Shoulder surgery for Garoppolo on the eve of the NFL Scouting Combine shut down trade talks. San Francisco could have released the quarterback but chose not to.

As training camp progressed and no trade partner emerged, general manager John Lynch broached the subject of keeping Garoppolo in the fold on a reworked deal.

Like many others, Shanahan didn’t believe Garoppolo would agree.


On August 30, the 49er announced Garoppolo would be back with the 49ers for one more season. This time as the backup to Lance.

Lance broke his right ankle five quarters into the season and will miss the rest of the year. The injury put Garoppolo back on the field, and despite not participating in training camp, he picked up where he left off.

On his first drive of the game, Garoppolo completed three passes, including a 38-yard touchdown pass to Ross Dwelley.

Following the game, Garoppolo was asked about being able to air the ball out.

“It kind of felt like 2017, where you just go out throwing, make plays, that’s what I like to do,” said Garoppolo. “It’s different than what we usually do around here, but sometimes you need to do that.”

When he was asked on Thursday if he would like to push the ball down the field more often, Garoppolo didn’t hold back.

“I’d love that. Yeah, there’s a lot of things that go with that obviously, but yeah, I love doing that stuff. In ’17, there was a freedom where me, the receivers, tight ends, we had a good chemistry going. And when you get that with offensive skills and a quarterback, it makes for a tough offense.”

Garoppolo’s comments run counter to the run-heavy plan Kyle Shanahan has emphasized throughout his tenure with San Francisco. For instance, over the second half of the 2021 season, as the 49ers climbed back into the playoff race, a primary focus on offense was to run the ball at least 40 times per game.

On Friday, Kyle Shanahan was asked about his quarterback’s desire to put the ball in the air more often.

“There was no difference in that game than every game,” according to Shanahan. “It was probably just going in when the game plan is for someone else and just coming off and winging it and going with it.”

That response from Shanahan was quite telling. The game plan built for another quarterback called for more downfield shots than usual.

This falls right in line with comments made by former 49ers quarterback Steve Young during an interview with KNBR Thursday evening.

“If I was Jimmy, I think I would feel like Kyle doesn’t trust me to let it rip. And I just want to let it rip because that’s my best quality.”

“And Kyle’s go to decide, ‘Ok, do I do that’, because I haven’t done it in the past. I’ve been very, very careful. How do I build into what Jimmy wants to do?”

And therein lies the problem. One that ultimately led Shanahan and the 49ers to use three first-round draft picks on Garoppolo’s successor. There is a lack of trust between the coach and quarterback. According to Young, with Garoppolo back at the helm, now is the time for Shanahan and Garoppolo to work together to find common ground.

“I believe Kyle wants to win 50-0,” said Young. “But I believe he doesn’t feel he has the people to do that with, so he manages them. I think that’s where Jimmy needs to say, ‘Stop doing that. I will come through for you.'”

The 49ers have 15 games left in the regular season, plenty of time for Shanahan and Garoppolo to work together and make the best of the situation. And who knows, maybe Garoppolo could even stick around for a while longer.

As Young pointed out, Lance being out and having played only five games over the last three years leaves his future in question. However, the 49ers still have Garoppolo in the fold and have been successful with him on the field.

“Let’s create an environment where Jimmy’s the ten-year guy and make Trey and him fight it out. Let’s not just play out the string. Let’s invest in each other.”

We are far from knowing how this drama will play out, and the next act will take place on Sunday night in Denver.

It’s undoubtedly going to be entertaining along the way. Trust me.

This article has 9 Comments

  1. Never gonna happen in a million years. KS is a very good coach but a control freak. I don’t think he has had full trust in any of his QB’s other than M. Ryan. If the 49ers had traded for a veteran QB like Brady or Rodgers he would give up some control but no one else would have his trust, Stafford included. Its too bad. JG of 2017 was the best JG we have seen.

    1. Old Coach
      What you say is true…But…..What if JG decides to change KS call and go with his calls? Is KS going to bench him? And if he does bench JG and the 9ers lose games?
      Will KS discover that what Young is saying is true…..And he discovers he can’t walk on water?
      THEN WHAT? Will Jeb get a call from mama?

      1. My thought also. Jimmy no longer needs to completely satisfy Kyle. Although Jimmy is a get along guy, I can see in some instances where he might change a call or just get more aggressive. I think maybe Jimmy was sending Kyle a message. This year he’s playing for his teammates and himself. I very much doubt there would be a big dust up between the 2 as that’s not Jimmy’s personality and Kyle needs Jimmy. It could be a very interesting year though.

    1. Allie,
      Bet the house that Brunskill will be the starting center about 2 weeks after he is cleared to practice. He won’t be great but he will be measurably better than Brendel. imho

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