John Lynch made his most definitive statement to date on the 49ers' quarterback future when he told "Eye For Two" podcast that he has no doubt Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starting quarterback next season if he's healthy.
Garoppolo has been good when he's been on the field, and when he plays, the 49ers generally win. But is he the right guy to take the 49ers back to the Super Bowl and finish the job? LaDainian Tomlinson and Willie McGinest aren't sold.
"I don't know yet," McGinest said on NFL Network when asked if Garoppolo was the right guy for the 49ers. "We watched this year and the 49ers, even when he played, this wasn't a Super Bowl-caliber team. Did they play great? Are they physical? Did they do all the different things to compete within the division? Yes, they do. But that's a big if.
"You heard, [Lynch} say it. You got to be on the field to excel in Kyle Shanahan's system. We have yet to see Jimmy G really be productive in the light we know he can be with Kyle Shanahan. We've just seen a small snippet of this offense in what he can do and it was mostly powered by the running game not by the arm of Jimmy G. He has to stay healthy, he has to continue to pick up the system to open up that offense so that they can do more than just power run the football and throw the ball here and there when they need to."
Tomlinson agreed with McGinest, and he thinks Lynch came out and said that because he might have inquired about the price to acquire disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and been rebuffed.
"There were times last year where you would see Kyle Shanahan physically frustrated with the way the offense was running with Jimmy Garoppolo," Tomlinson said. "So you know he wasn't happy. I really think John Lynch is saying that because maybe he's picked up the phone and talked to the Texans and tried to get Deshaun Watson and they are not budging. Because you are ready to win right now. Jimmy G got them to the Super Bowl, yes.
"But if you had Deshaun Watson, you would win the Super Bowl. This team is ready to win. The entire offense will be opened up if they had Deshaun Watson, and I agree with you, Willie. The offense has been stagnant and we haven't seen the best of Jimmy G, and maybe it's because he's missed more games than he's won."
As the quarterback carousel spins this offseason, the 49ers will continue to be patient observers who are ready to strike if the right opportunity presents itself. They passed on Tom Brady last offseason, a decision that now looks like a clear miss after Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs. They were beaten to the punch on Matthew Stafford by the Los Angeles Rams, and it appears that despite Watson's unhappiness with the Texans, Houston is unwilling to move the 25-year-old star.
The 49ers rightfully sat out the race for Carson Wentz, and are more than happy to run things back with Garoppolo if a Watson trade doesn't materialize.
San Francisco owns the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and could look to select a quarterback who falls to 12 like Alabama's Mac Jones, choosing to shift their championship window and build around a quarterback on a rookie contract.
Lynch's statement all but confirms the expected. The 49ers likely will restructure Garoppolo's contract, converting a large portion of his 2021 salary into a signing bonus in order to free up cap space and hope Garoppolo can stay healthy in 2021 to pilot the 49ers back to the playoffs.
But if that doesn't work, expect the 49ers to once again be back in the quarterback carousel conversation next offseason.