The 49ers' "Revenge Tour" never really got off the ground in 2020. Injuries plagued them from the moment the season began, and they have scratched and clawed to a 6-9 record with one game left to play.
With the 49ers out of the playoff picture since mid-November, all the talk has centered around the team's future at the quarterback position. Names like Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Mitchell Trubisky, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance have been bandied about as potential replacements for Jimmy Garoppolo should the 49ers elect to make a change.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that he expects Garoppolo to return as the 49ers' starting quarterback. Tight end George Kittle, who has been one of Garoppolo's staunchest defenders, went to bat for QB1 again Tuesday.
“At the end of the day I play tight end here and I just work here, but I think that I do have a little bit of a voice and I’ve said multiple times that I just love playing football with Jimmy G,” Kittle told KNBR's Mark Willard. “Our team is different when he’s out there, and that’s why it’s fun to play football with him because I think we both have big-time changes to our huddles when we’re both on the football field.
“I can’t say enough about the leader Jimmy G is, and how his presence changes how the team is feeling, how the team is going about its business and how the team practices every day. Jimmy G is our quarterback, and moving forward he’s our quarterback, and that’s all I really have to say about it.
“I’m going to go with the guy that took us to a Super Bowl and played at a high level the entire year. That’s my case for Jimmy G and I think it’s a decent one.”
Even if Garoppolo returns in 2021, the 49ers will need to address the quarterback position behind him. Backup quarterback Nick Mullens hasn't gotten the job done and while C.J. Beathard played well in an upset win over the Arizona Cardinals, he's not the answer either.
The 49ers can move on from Garoppolo this offseason with a limited financial penalty. If they elect to bring him back as the starter, his $26.4 million salary-cap hit is a modest one compared to other starting quarterbacks.
Garoppolo is a known commodity. Shanahan is aware that he can rack up wins with Garoppolo at the helm as long as the running game is humming and the defense plays at a top-tier level as it did in 2019. If one of those areas drops off, then Shanahan might have to ask Garoppolo to carry more of a load than he's comfortable with.
If the 49ers want to move on from Garoppolo this offseason they must be sure they can clearly upgrade the position. Otherwise, the smart decision is to run it back with Garoppolo.