49ers

Jimmy G's attitude about Lance sets tone for Super Bowl return

49ers

As Aaron Rodgers lays waste to Green Bay like Godzilla smashing through an unsuspecting city, torching everything in his path until he gets what he wants, Jimmy Garoppolo has marched on in relative silence.

Sixteen months after Garoppolo led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and a berth in Super Bowl LIV, general manager John Lynch called up Garoppolo to inform him that they'd be drafting his eventual replacement. But the 49ers still view Garoppolo as their best shot in 2021 so they'd like him to help pilot them back to the Super Bowl, achieve their goal and then turn everything over to Trey Lance.

Cold world.

For Garoppolo, he was unbothered by the 49ers' decision to draft Trey Lance and is approaching the 2021 season with a rare perspective that can only help the 49ers on their quest to rebound from their 6-10 2020 season and tramponline back to the top of the NFC.

"That's not really the NFL. It's a what-have-you-done-for-me lately type of business," Garoppolo told CBS Sports Radio's Damon Amendolara on Tuesday when asked if he felt people forget how good he is. "I know that. I've known that my whole career. It's one of those things where you can't be satisfied with doing it once. You have to just every season keep going at it."

Garoppolo is 24-8 as a starting quarterback. He was phenomenal in his lone full season as a starter for the 49ers and had San Francisco 10 minutes away from being Super Bowl champions in a game in which he might have been named MVP had the 49ers sealed the deal.

 

After the crappy MetLife Stadium turf sent Garoppolo's 2020 season down the drain, the 29-year-old quarterback now confronts a new reality as the 2021 season approaches. He is, for the moment, the 49ers' best chance to contending for and winning the Super Bowl next season. He has the ultimate belief of his teammates, knows Kyle Shanahan's offense well and, as long as he stays healthy, is primed for another bounce-back season like the one he enjoyed in 2019.

He is also not the 49ers' future. That distinction belongs to Lance.

For the past three-and-a-half seasons, Garoppolo has been the guy in San Francisco. His No. 10 jerseys littered the Bay Area. While that near-miss in the Super Bowl caused some to question his viability as a championship-caliber quarterback -- and led to a brief flirtation with Tom Brady by Lynch and Shanahan -- the prevailing thought was, by and large, that Garoppolo was ready to take the next step and was the current and future face of the franchise.

Now, he'll return to the Bay no longer the favorite son. The first time he sails a pass or misreads a defense and is picked off, the calls for Lance will come. There will be some who want Lance to have the job from Day 1 despite his youth and relative inexperience.

It would be easy for Garoppolo to feel slighted and angry, as Rodgers has ever since the Packers drafted his replacement, Jordan Love, in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

But where Rodgers opted to drop a nuke on the Packers just hours before the draft, leaking that he was unhappy with the organization and no longer wants to play there, Garoppolo asked for Lance's phone number and has vowed to help his replacement start his NFL journey.

Of course, there's a big difference between offering a helping hand and letting someone step on you while you're drowning to save themself. Make no mistake, while Garoppolo will be diplomatic and not give Lance the same treatment Brett Favre gave Rodgers and that Rodgers now is giving Love, Garoppolo enters the 2021 campaign ready to fight and compete with the man hand-picked to take his job.

"The chip will always be there," Garoppolo told ESPN's "Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin" on Tuesday. "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."

If we've learned anything about Garoppolo since he's been the 49ers' starting quarterback, it's that he is a leader, one who has the respect, admiration and backing of all of his teammates. He knows the importance that comes with being the head of the snake, a lesson he learned from Brady in New England, and isn't going to enter the season, one in which the 49ers plan to contend for a Super Bowl, armed with a flamethrower and grenades.

Garoppolo understands the position Lance is in. He has stood in those shoes. In 2014, he was a little-known FCS quarterback drafted in the second round by the New England Patriots to be groomed as the heir apparent to Brady.

It is no coincidence that Garoppolo's arrival in New England sparked Brady's revival and the start of a second-half Hall-of-Fame career. Preservation is a natural instinct and the emergence of a threat often triggers a heightened state of awareness, or in this case, performance.

Garoppolo and Brady had fierce practice competitions, but Brady's sustained level of excellence eventually led to Garoppolo being traded to the 49ers.

As Garoppolo now assumes the role Brady occupied for him, he'll let his experiences at 1 Patriot Place guide how he mentors the man who is going to take his job.

"It's kind of coming full circle," Garoppolo told "Keshawn, J-Will and Zubin." "You go through this NFL career and you start as a young guy coming in. Tom kind of showed me the ropes. The competition between us was awesome. It really made me grow as a rookie and as a young player. So, that's kind of what me and Trey, we'll mold our relationship into that. But it will happen naturally. It's one of those things you can't force anything. Just let it come as it may."

RELATED: Lance, Jimmy G, Rodgers and 49ers' QB what-ifs that remain

It speaks both to Garoppolo's character and the culture Shanahan and Lynch have built that their starting quarterback whose replacement they just drafted is set to enter a season with Super Bowl expectations with a clean slate and clear mind.

Rodgers and the Packers are fresh off an appearance in the NFC Championship Game and are expected to contend for a Super Bowl again this season. But the toxicity of Rodgers' actions can wrap itself around a team and strangle the life out of it at the first sign of adversity.

Garoppolo and Rodgers' situations are not equal, of course. Rodgers is 37, has already had a Hall of Fame career and wants to finish his illustrious NFL tenure on his terms, Packers' title hopes be damned. Garoppolo is 29, has missed 23 games in the last three seasons and is looking for his next teams and contract.

 

But Garoppolo's diplomatic attitude -- whether genuine or constructed -- is something that should serve the 49ers well in a 2021 season in which they will have Super Bowl expectations and deafening noise surrounding their every move.

Lance's arrival also should bring the best out of Garoppolo as he fights not only to end his 49ers tenure on the highest of notes but to prove he still is the quarterback many believed when he arrived in the Bay and took the 49ers to the cusp of Super Bowl glory.

"But at the end of the day, like my dad was just saying, all you can ask for is the opportunity," Garoppolo told Amendolara. "So, once they said you'll have the opportunity to start this year and fight it out, I was all for it. I'm ready for the competition and that's what we're here for."

From Garoppolo to Lance and Shanahan, the 2021 49ers will all be fighting for something whether it be survival, respect, opportunity or a chance at immortality.

Download and subscribe to the 49ers Talk Podcast