Jimmy Garoppolo’s first trip to the Super Bowl as a starting quarterback ended in disappointment. While he led the San Francisco 49ers to a 20-10 lead by the start of the fourth quarter, the 28-year-old and his offense failed to make the necessary plays in the clutch to hold onto it and finally saw the Kansas City Chiefs come back to win the title game with a final score of 31-20. Garoppolo and company just didn’t make enough plays.
All in all, the former New England Patriots quarterback had a passable game — he completed 20 of 31 pass attempts for 219 and a touchdown, but also threw two interceptions — but when his team needed him to come through he faltered. This, in turn, has led to some interesting questions being posed on social media and right here on Pats Pulpit following the game: Could the 49ers move on from Garoppolo this offsesaon? And could he return to New England in turn?
Before digging too deep into this matter, let’s stop this thought experiment right here. San Francisco, owners of the 31st overall selection in this year’s draft, will not move on from Garoppolo even though he did not play his best on Super Bowl Sunday. After all, there are numerous factors that need to be considered that all speak against the 49ers parting ways with a quarterback they acquired via trade from New England in 2017:
1.) Garoppolo had a good year. Returning from a stint on injured reserve due to a torn ACL, Garoppolo played some good football in 2019: he made few mistakes while completing almost 70% of his passes along the way. Yes, he did not do much during San Francisco’s first two playoff games and was unable to make plays when it mattered most but he is still franchise material and a quarterback to build around.
2.) There are no viable replacement options. Backup Nick Mullens has potential as a starting quarterback in the NFL, yes, but the 49ers had plenty of success with Garoppolo running the show so why would they turn to a quarterback that is a downgrade from him? Also, there are no high-profile passers available — unless the Patriots’ Tom Brady reaches free agency — that would be an immediate upgrade for the 2020 season.
The debate about Garoppolo leaving San Francisco, paving the way for a potential return to New England to fulfill his “destiny” as Tom Brady’s heir, is centered only around his contract numbers: according to Over The Cap, San Francisco would save $22.4 million in 2020 versus a dead cap hit of just $4.2 million if it parted ways with the quarterback before April 1. But saving big on a position is no argument to make a move if no follow-ups make sense.
49ers general manager John Lynch could obviously look at the economics of Garoppolo’s deal and decide he could invest the money elsewhere to build an even better team around a worse quarterback, but his statements during Super Bowl week tell you all you need to know about the team moving on from its passer: “We knew it was kind our stated goal was we have to find that quarterback and then find the guys to knock them down. He was a big piece of that. That was big for us.”
Garoppolo being let go by San Francisco and eventually returning to the Patriots is a fun thought experiment, but nothing more.