As Kyle Shanahan explained Monday why Jimmy Garoppolo will return next season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, each reason came with justification for 2021 optimism.
One, Shanahan referred to Garoppolo’s 24-9 overall record with the 49ers, including last year’s 15-4 run that ended in Super Bowl defeat.
Second, and most relevant for a team strapped with salary cap woes, Shanahan repeatedly downplayed Garoppolo’s $ 24 million salary, saying “it’s not like it’s something ridiculous” and that is the going rate for “how much they cost.”
“Look at Jimmy, what he’s done, look at where he’s at financially,” Shanahan said on Monday’s video conference with reporters ahead of the 49ers’ season finale Sunday.
“We better have a very good answer if you’re going to find somebody better than that, because Jimmy’s shown in one year, he’s somebody who can take us to the Super Bowl, and I also think Jimmy’s going to get a lot better the more he plays. ”
High ankle sprains derailed Garoppolo’s season, starting with a first-quarter sack against the New York Jets in Week 2 and seemingly ending with a Nov. 1 injury to the same right ankle at Seattle.
Unless the 49ers’ doctors call an audible, Shanahan said he’d be shocked if Garoppolo is cleared to return for Sunday’s finale against the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks, a game held at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. because of Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 restrictions this month.
Garoppolo has not commented to the media the past two months. An interview request by this news organization Monday was deferred to a more likely session next week, as players check out for the offseason.
“The injuries he had, I mean, kind of took the year from him,” Shanahan said. “It was unfortunate for Jimmy and for our team. I know it’s frustrating for him. That’s why he’s got to go into this offseason to do everything he can to get ready for Week 1 next year.
“Hopefully we’ll get an offseason so we can make sure we give him (practices), because he didn’t get that (during 2019 ACL recovery), which was tougher.”
This past offseason’s practices were scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic. This upcoming offseason will offer the 49ers a chance to improve on their backup situation; Nick Mullens went 2-6 before a significant elbow injury, and CJ Beathard won Saturday in his first start since 2018.
Shanahan did not rule out drafting a quarterback or bringing in a veteran, though he said they’d have to be “a ton better.”
“You can’t say anything with certainty. You don’t sit here and make promises on anything, ”Shahanan said. “We build football teams and it’s your job to put the best team together year in and year out.
“People talk about Jimmy’s contract. Jimmy is like one of the middle quarterbacks in the league right now in terms of salary. That’s just how much they cost. So it’s not like it’s something ridiculous. We can work all that out. ”
That could mean a contract extension to diminish his 2021 cap charge of $ 26 million, which ranks 11th among NFL quarterbacks, according to financial numbers via Spotrac.com.
It certainly did not sound like Shanahan is angling to cut Garoppolo, who reportedly has a no-trade clause in the five-year, $ 137.5 million contract he signed in 2018. The 49ers would endure only a $ 2.8 million cap hit if they part ways.
Added Shanahan: “Look at Jimmy’s record when he’s been here. Jimmy, you can win with. He’s proven he’s a starting quarterback in this league. ”
Garoppolo, who arrived in a Halloween 2017 trade from New England, officially went 3-3 this season with 12 touchdown passes and five interceptions. He’s otherwise been rehabbing (often while sitting in on the offensive installation meetings on Zoom). During games, he’s been taking notes from a luxury suite while sitting with other injured players, and Shanahan said that note-taking habit has produced countless notebooks by Garoppolo over the years.
“There’s a reason his record is what it is. That’s why we pay for him to be our starting quarterback, ”Shanahan said. “To think that’s ridiculous as for his contract, this isn’t his fist year. That’s how much quarterbacks cost in this league. He’s right there, somewhere between like 13th and 19th, so that’s nothing too big. That’s how much they cost. ”