SANTA CLARA -- Coach Kyle Shanahan likely has already made his decision.
In effect, Shanahan disclosed his choice in the minutes following the 49ers’ Week 17 victory over the Houston Texans.
If Jimmy Garoppolo were 100-percent healthy — or somewhere in that general vicinity — he was the desired quarterback to lead the 49ers into their likely win-or-the-season-is-over game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Garoppolo, torn thumb ligament and all, appeared to be just fine in his limited work on the practice field so far this week.
“Jimmy just looks like Jimmy to me,” 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel said after Thursday’s practice.
It is possible Garoppolo’s thumb condition could take an unexpected downward turn, of course.
But, at this stage, it is looking more and more likely Garoppolo will be the starter Sunday and rookie Trey Lance — the future of the organization — will insert back into his role as the quarterback for next season.
Garoppolo has been with the 49ers for four-and-a-half seasons. He has the best handle on what Shanahan has drawn up to face the Rams.
Garoppolo has started five games against the Rams. The 49ers are 5-0 in those games.
This will be Garoppolo's toughest assignment, yet. But Shanahan has every reason to feel more comfortable with the quarterback who has 47 starts in his system over a player who has made a total of three starts over the past two years.
The Rams rank second in the NFL with 47 sacks, featuring a pass rush that includes Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd.
Garoppolo is better equipped to avoid the sacks with his pre-snap reads, making the adjustments and getting the ball out quickly to the designed targets.
Garoppolo gets rid of the ball in an average of 2.47 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus. In his small sample size, Lance averages getting rid of the ball in 3.03 seconds.
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Eventually, the 49ers’ offense will feature a new look. With Garoppolo, the 49ers take what the defense gives them. When Lance becomes the starter, the focus will be on a more aggressive approach and driving the ball down the field.
The 49ers kept Garoppolo around this season because Shanahan and general manager John Lynch made the decision to maximize the win total with a quarterback who was a finished product and not someone who was learning on the job.
The 49ers kept their season alive last week with Lance running a basic form of the offense against the four-win Texans.
Basic will not cut it this week. The 49ers need to be able to react on offense to any opening the Rams’ defense gives them.
Garoppolo is the quarterback who gives the team the best chance, assuming his thumb is stable enough to make the throws.
Right now, that seems to be the case. And the 49ers can live with the results.