Kyle Shanahan made it crystal clear: When he's healthy, the 49ers are Jimmy Garoppolo's team.
When called upon, backup quarterback Nick Mullens has answered the bell and played well. Mullens' first nine career games have his name mentioned in the same sentence as Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck, and he's shown he's up to the task of leading the 49ers.
As long as Mullens continues to play well, talk of a quarterback "controversy" will continue to surround the 49ers, no matter what Shanahan says. But former 49ers linebacker and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Takeo Spikes doesn't believe there's any controversy in San Francisco and knows the locker room isn't getting caught up in the Garoppolo vs. Mullens talk.
"People ask me all the time: Do players get caught up in quarterback controversy?" Spikes said on the 49ers Talk podcast. " Nick Mullens. Jimmy Garoppolo. Absolutely not. Why? Because they understand that it's not their fight. They know at any given point in time that the controversy could come into their little side room and now they have to deal with it. This is the beautiful thing about being inside a locker room. Guys don't care about whether or not you are white, if you're black, whatever religion you are practicing. They only care about one thing: Can you win me football games? Point blank. Period.
"At the end of the day, the 49ers are 2-1. When you look at this locker room, I guarantee you, they won back-to-back games all the way in New York minus 10 guys who weren't playing and they are still 2-1 going into the fourth week of the season. So the mood inside the locker room is like this plain and simple: They are happy because as Vince Lombardi said, winning breeds winning and it breeds confidence. Unfortunately, so does losing. So, as long as they stay above .500 and when Jimmy G comes back, Kyle Shanahan already stated: 'He will be our quarterback.' No controversy. Period."
Mullens has played well in Garoppolo's absence of that there is no question. By some advanced metrics, the Southern Mississippi product is among the best signal-callers in the NFL.
But Garoppolo is fresh off a 13-3 regular season and a Super Bowl berth. Yes, he still can make improvements and there are still some cringe-worthy throws. But this is Garoppolo's team until he shows that he is incapable of doing the job when healthy.
Oh, there's also that fact that Garoppolo has a $137.5 million price tag attached to him. It will take more than Mullens dicing up the New York Giants to make Garoppolo's seat warm.
Mullens likely will get the start again in Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football, with the 49ers needing a win to keep pace with their NFC West rivals who are 7-2 through three weeks of the season.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he's been impressed with Mullens and said the 49ers are blessed to have two starting quarterbacks. That might be the case, but that blessing can turn into a curse if a controversy eventually arises.
After the afternoon NFL games end Sunday, go to NBC Sports Bay Area or the MyTeams app at 4 p.m. PT for "49ers Pregame Live," as Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams, Matt Maiocco, Jennifer Lee Chan and Grant Liffmann preview the "Sunday Night Football" matchup against the Eagles. Then, after the game, come back for "49ers Postgame Live," with highlights, analysis, interviews and more.