Should the San Francisco 49ers commit to Jimmy Garoppolo or should they get in the mix for Tom Brady in the 2020 offseason?
The Super Bowl is over, which means it’s officially the offseason for all 32 teams in the NFL. It’s not going to be an easy offseason for the San Francisco 49ers, who went from the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft (used to select defensive rookie of the year Nick Bosa) to second place in the league and NFC Champions.
The 49ers had bigger goals than just being NFC Champions, however, and the bad taste left in their mouths right now is going to linger as the team has to now make decisions about how to proceed with their roster.
One of the biggest questions is going to be what the 49ers should do with Jimmy Garoppolo, who certainly wasn’t a hack this past season, but he made some critical errors down the stretch and had the 49ers adjusting their offensive gameplan throughout the playoffs with an inability to push the ball downfield.
He proved himself to be an effective quarterback running Kyle Shanahan’s offense at the age of 28, throwing for just under 4,000 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In the playoffs, however, he threw just two touchdown passes in three games compared to three interceptions.
Stats rarely give you the whole story, and having watched a number of 49ers games this past season, I don’t think it would be fair to say that Garoppolo was a ‘problem’ for this team, but could they upgrade?
Sure, I think they could.
The 49ers may have a rare opportunity to upgrade in the form of Tom Brady, a five-time Super Bowl champion quarterback who is looking to continue his playing career at the age of 42 going on 43. Brady feels he can play until he’s 45, which would give him three seasons yet, and the 49ers will certainly be contending in that window.
The question is — is three years (or less) of Brady worth pulling the plug on Garoppolo for potentially the long-term?
It might be.
Garoppolo has started one full season in the NFL, and while he played well for a lot of it, I think his ability to get the ball downfield accurately and consistently is a big question mark.
Any average NFL quarterback could probably come into Kyle Shanahan’s offense and complete 65-70 percent of the passes he’s being asked to make. With the weapons they have assembled in San Francisco, it’s no question Garoppolo was hovering around the 70 percent mark this past season. This offense requires the receivers to get yardage after the catch, and they had two of the league’s best this year in George Kittle and Deebo Samuel at doing it.
Down the stretch in the Super Bowl, the 49ers needed Garoppolo to be more, to do more, and he couldn’t get the job done.
As fate would have it, the 49ers built an ‘out’ in Garoppolo’s contract after the 2019 season. Whether that was simply because he had not played much football before or they were concerned about his injuries (or both), they still have it available and it will only cost them $4.2 million in dead cap to trade or release Garoppolo, who will otherwise count $26.6 million against the cap.
Saving $22.4 million is not the primary issue here, though. The primary issue is whether or not the 49ers feel like they can contend better right now with Jimmy Garoppolo or Tom Brady.
I don’t think any other quarterback in the 2020 free agent class would pose a threat to Garoppolo, but Brady might get the 49ers thinking.
Kyle Shanahan is as innovative as you will find in a head coach. We know Brady can work well in an offense that gets the ball out quickly, and he grew up in California as a 49ers fan.
He’s accomplished everything there is to accomplish in New England except playing his entire career with one team. While it would be cool to do that, are the Patriots set up well enough to pay Brady as well as surround him with the necessary weapons on offense to win now?
I’m not so sure about that.
The 49ers already have plenty of cap space, and swapping out Garoppolo’s contract with the $30 million per year Brady probably wants would really not be a big deal.
The 49ers are on a very positive trajectory right now, but they will have roster turnover just like every other team in the league, and it’s going to be tough to repeat the kind of production we saw from them defensively over the next three years.
Especially with limited draft capital, they have to either pay up in free agency to surround Garoppolo or try to seduce Brady to come play for an NFC contender and his childhood team and build around the GOAT.
Is Brady past his prime? Maybe. Is Garoppolo at his peak? That’s also possible.
The 49ers have to try to take the emotional aspect out of this and evaluate this from purely a football perspective. If they do that, I won’t be shocked if the conclusion they reach is that Brady is the better fit for this team in the present, and they can reset in a couple of years with another young quarterback.