Jimmy Garoppolo enters 49ers training camp as the starting quarterback for 2021, but the clock is ticking on his time in Santa Clara after San Francisco drafted Trey Lance No. 3 overall in April.
Garoppolo has taken the proper approach to Lance's arrival, setting the tone for what the 49ers hope is a return to championship contention with the veteran under center in 2021. Still, Garoppolo faces the difficult task of trying to be a good mentor to Lance while keeping the rookie on the sideline for as long as possible.
“I know what you're saying," Garoppolo told reporters Wednesday when asked if he'll hold anything back when mentoring Lance. "Honestly, I try not to put too much thought into that. Like the specifics of it. I think that stuff just comes naturally. And it's not like I would ever hold something away from him. You know, I don't want to tell him this type of thing. It's just, when you let it happen organically, and that's what kind of we've done. I think that's when it's at its most natural, and you can really build a normal relationship between two people.
"And so it's, yeah, I wouldn't want to, I don't want to draw a line anywhere or anything like that, but anything he needs, I'm willing to help him. I think Nate [Sudfeld] and Josh [Rosen] are the same way. We've got a good group, good room right now in the QBs, and it's fun to be around.”
Both Garoppolo and Lance shined Wednesday during the first practice of camp. Coach Kyle Shanahan has said Garoppolo had his best spring as a 49er. But don't attribute Garoppolo going up a level to Lance's arrival.
“You know, I try to do that myself," Garoppolo said when asked if Lance is motivating him. "I’ve been around for a little while. I sound old saying that, but if you don't push yourself, then you’ve got no chance in this game. So, if you rely on outside forces to motivate you, it's going to be tough, but at the end of the day, I'm as motivated as it gets.”
Garoppolo entered the league in 2014 as a second-round pick of the New England Patriots. He was expected to be the heir apparent to Tom Brady, but Brady never tailed off, causing the Patriots to trade Garoppolo to the 49ers in 2017.
The 29-year-old has walked in Lance's shoes and knows how Brady handled Garoppolo's arrival in 2014, so he hasn't felt the need to reach out to any veterans who have gone through a similar situation.
"I didn't really seek anyone out," Garoppolo said. "I think just from having talked to guys, being around the league for a little while and having, you know, I was in a similar situation in New England. So you see those things firsthand, you see it playing out in the media throughout other teams and things like that. And at the end of the day, it's football. And so you’ve just got to go out there and enjoy it. It's not going to be around forever, and so enjoy it while you can."
If Garoppolo stays healthy and plays well, he should maintain a hold on the 49ers' starting job for the entire season. A healthy and motivated Garoppolo gives the 49ers the best chance to win in 2021 and will allow Lance time to develop without throwing him in the deep end right away.
But Garoppolo knows the situation. Eventually, he will hand Lance the keys to Shanahan's Maserati and close the book on his time in San Francisco. To Garoppolo, though, that's just the nature of the NFL beast.
“I don't know what you're talking about awkwardness, but no, it's me and Trey, we've had a good relationship," Garoppolo said. "We really have. It's sort of one of those things. It is what it is. This business is weird, but at the end of the day, we're in that locker room, we're around each other so much that it's just business.”