The San Francisco 49ers haven’t exactly declared Jimmy Garoppolo as their quarterback of the future, or even for the 2021 season, but George Kittle believes Jimmy G has the goods to ultimately help the team win a Super Bowl.
In an interview on Tuesday, the 49ers’ superstar tight end gave Garoppolo a ringing endorsement as a championship-caliber signal-caller.
George Kittle: ‘I still believe in Jimmy G’
On the NFL Network program Good Morning Football, Kittle spoke glowingly about Garoppolo’s ability to lead San Francisco to ultimate gridiron glory, per reporter Will Silva:
There’s reason to buy into the Garoppolo hype. Once thought to be the heir apparent to Tom Brady for the New England Patriots, Garoppolo deftly navigated that turbulent situation and has really been a quality player when he’s been healthy enough to play for the 49ers.
Therein lies the problem, though. Garoppolo missed 23 games combined during the 2018 and 2020 seasons. Sandwiched between there was an excellent season, however, in which Garoppolo did lead the Niners to Super Bowl LIV, where they lost to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Garoppolo played well enough on the big stage to give San Francisco a lead entering the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Mahomes worked his trademark magic, and the 49ers signal-caller was unable to answer in the end. He was one quarter away from probably putting to rest any questions about his future in the Bay Area.
That’s how fine the line is in the NFL. Just ask the losing Super Bowl quarterback before him, Jared Goff, who the Los Angeles Rams just traded to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a hopeful upgrade at QB in Matthew Stafford.
Will George Kittle get a chance to play with Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021?
It’s only a $2.8 million dead cap hit if the Niners release Garoppolo this offseason, so the temptation to seek a more durable field general is obviously there for general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Garoppolo’s name has been linked to multiple teams as a potential trade chip. Given the upside Garoppolo has shown when on the field for the 49ers, his contract situation could benefit a prospective suitor either way.
If a team is interested in dealing for Garoppolo, but San Francisco is asking for too much in return, said team could just wait until the Niners release him if they go a different direction at the quarterback position. While the risk would be losing out, the minimal dead cap hit doesn’t give Lynch and the front office much leverage in trade talks.
On the other hand, if the Niners do wind up releasing Garoppolo instead of trading him, he’ll be available at a discount from his prior contract.
Kittle had great chemistry with Jimmy G when they played together for a full season in 2019, racking up 85 receptions on 107 targets for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. He’d had 88 catches on 136 targets the previous year when Garoppolo was mostly out.
Garoppolo has led San Francisco deep in the playoffs once before. The team was sacked with injuries in 2020 and missed the playoffs, and has lots of pending free agents. There are a lot of priorities for Lynch and the personnel department to juggle, so a decision on Garoppolo may not be imminent despite the recent Stafford-Goff blockbuster trade being the huge, first QB domino to fall.
Between the adverse salary cap situation besetting many teams in the league and the fact that Garoppolo knows Shanahan’s offense and played extremely well in his only full season with the team, it makes more sense for the Niners to just stick with the status quo and see what Garoppolo can do in 2021.
As we saw with the Stafford-Goff deal, though, it’s very difficult to predict what might go down considering the 49ers probably feel they’re ready to contend for a championship now, and may be a quarterback upgrade away from getting it done.