Kyle Shanahan has made it clear that Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance will not enter training camp in a battle to be the starting quarterback. Lance, just 20 years old and with just 17 starts under his belt at North Dakota State, will need time to develop before becoming a full-time starter.
Still, the message is clear that when the time is right, Lance is the 49ers' future, and Garoppolo is now a placeholder. Garoppolo understands the business, but plans to fight to hold onto the job that has been his for the last three-and-a-half years for as long as possible.
"The chip will always be there," Garoppolo told ESPN's "Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin" on Tuesday, his first public comments since the 49ers' blockbuster trade. "That hasn't gone away at all. Since I got in the league, I've had that. I think that kind of comes from just the way you were raised and everything like that. My dad was an electrician, blue-collar guy and I think it kind of just rubs off on you.
"It's kind of the way the league is going nowadays. Everybody is drafting young, wants to get the developmental guy and things like that, so I kind of know what it is. I've been on both sides of it now, but at the end of the, like I said earlier, all you can really ask for is the opportunity. Once you get that, you've got to take advantage of it."
When Garoppolo has started, he has been a good NFL quarterback. When he is on the field, the 49ers win. In his lone full season as a starter, Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions while leading the 49ers to a berth in Super Bowl LIV.
As is often the case with history, Garoppolo's performance in Super Bowl LIV, one in which he was on track to be named MVP before the 49ers' 10-minute collapse, has largely been forgotten. The issue with Garoppolo lies not in his ability but in his availability, as he has missed 23 games over the last three seasons.
“The biggest thing with Jimmy is his injuries,” Shanahan told reporters prior to the draft. “It’s been very tough for us when he’s been hurt. This happened two of these three years. That’s where it starts. Jimmy knows that. I’ve been very upfront with him with everything.
“We’ve been Zooming these last two weeks. Excited to get him in here coming up, especially when this draft is over, but I feel very fortunate taking a rookie quarterback that we do have a guy like Jimmy.
“We didn’t sign a guy who is capable or has the history of being a starter right away, but we have a guy, every time he’s been a starter, he’s played at a high level.”
The 49ers have been open and honest about their QB plans with Garoppolo from the start. In January, Garoppolo noted he needed to find a way to stay healthy, but Shanahan and Lynch began studying potential quarterback options shortly after and eventually landed on Lance, who they selected with the No. 3 overall pick.
Garoppolo has no hard feelings about the situation and is excited to get to work as the 49ers' presumed starter this season.
"The communication has been good," Garoppolo said Tuesday. "There really hasn't been anything unsaid. Everything has been put on the table. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to play football. At the end of the day, that's what I'm here for, that's what I signed up for. As long as I have the opportunity to go out there and win some games and play good football, that's all you can ask for at the end of the day... All you really need is an opportunity. If you get an opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it, and that's what I'm trying to do."
As soon as the 49ers selected Lance, Garoppolo asked for his phone number and reached out to the young quarterback.
Lance knows how rare his situation is and is just looking forward to soaking up the knowledge from a quarterback who was 10 minutes away from being Super Bowl MVP.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know Jimmy and being able to spend some time with him,” Lance told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco after he was selected. “And, obviously, he’s done it. Playing in a Super Bowl two years ago, there’s not too many rookie quarterbacks that get to go into a situation with a roster like they have there.”