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49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo vows to mentor Trey Lance

Matt Fitzgerald

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The San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback situation may not be as mired in controversy as expected based on how gracefully Jimmy Garoppolo is handling things.

Even after the Niners traded two future first-round picks and took Trey Lance third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, Garoppolo spoke at length on Tuesday about how he wants to be a good teammate and mentor for the North Dakota State standout.

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Read More: San Francisco 49ers draft Trey Lance with No. 3 pick in 2021 NFL Draft

Jimmy Garoppolo: ‘More than happy’ to help Trey Lance

In an interview on ESPN Radio’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin show, Garoppolo spoke for the first time publicly since San Francisco altered the course of its future by selecting Lance, per ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner:

“I try to use my own personal experiences and just what I went through, what helped me, what challenged me as a young player. I’m going to use those tools that helped me and try to help Trey out. It’s hard to come into this league; I know how it was coming from an FCS school to the NFL. It’s a bit of an adjustment, the speed, whatever you want to call it, it’s just different. So, whatever I can do to help him, I’ll be more than happy.”

San Francisco 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo on mentoring Trey Lance

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has maintained that Garoppolo will continue on as the 49ers’ 2021 starter as long as he’s available to play.

By all accounts, communication between Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and Garoppolo has been open and transparent. This is a vast departure from how, say, Green Bay handled drafting Jordan Love without telling Aaron Rodgers in advance.

But back to the topic at hand: Garoppolo not only tied his experience of coming out of an FCS program in Eastern Illinois to Lance’s initial entry into the NFL, but also knows what it’s like to be lined up as a successor. He was in that role with the New England Patriots behind Tom Brady before ultimately being traded to San Francisco.

Garoppolo said he didn’t want to force anything with Lance, yet also hinted that competition between the two could be a huge positive, as it was in his experience with Brady in New England.

“Tom kind of showed me the ropes. The competition between us was awesome,” Garoppolo said. “It really made me grow as a rookie and as a young player. So, that’s kind of what me and Trey, we’ll mold our relationship into that.”

Read More: San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan pursued Aaron Rodgers trade before NFL Draft

Jimmy Garoppolo-Trey Lance QB situation looks like a win-win for 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo-Trey Lance QB situation looks like a win-win for 49ers
Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; North Dakota State Bisons quarterback Trey Lance is displayed on the video board after being selected as the third pick by the San Francisco 49ers during the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lance has as much upside as any of the top QB prospects from the 2021 draft class, but his limited game experience and facing inferior competition are marks that count against him. However, he did play in a pro-style offense for North Dakota State, so whatever he lacks in college pass attempts, Lance may make up for from the neck up in terms of football IQ.

Shanahan’s ingenious offensive system is famously complex, and Garoppolo has it down. Unfortunately, the problem with Jimmy G has been staying healthy. The last time he made it through a full season, San Francisco went 13-3 and was a blown fourth-quarter lead away from winning the Super Bowl.

If Garoppolo returns to his 2019 form, the 49ers are in great hands and should be a contender in the NFC again this year. Should the injury bug bite again, not only will Lance gain invaluable game experience, but it appears he’ll also be further along in understanding Shanahan’s offense than he would be if Garoppolo opted to give him the cold shoulder.

The winning culture from the Patriots evidently rubbed off on Garoppolo in many of the right ways. He’s unfazed by the competition Lance presents, and due to his unique situation in Foxborough, seems to actually embrace the situation rather than resist it.

All this bodes well for ensuring a smooth, eventual transition to Lance under center, but Garoppolo has shown that when he’s on the field, he can perform at a championship-caliber level, and you can bet he’ll do all he can as a competitor to fend off the start of Lance’s tenure.

Read More: San Francisco 49ers likely to keep Jimmy Garoppolo through 2021 season