Last offseason, it was Tom Brady. This offseason, the names are different -- Matthew Stafford, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers - but everything else likely is the same for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo enters the offseason having played in just six games in 2020, as two separate high ankle sprains kept him sidelined for most of the season. As Garoppolo works to make sure he's available for all 16 games in 2021, he said in early January he wouldn't let the typical offseason rumor mill faze him.
"All those things get said, but at the end of the day, I'm a 49er," Garoppolo told reporters the day after the 49ers' season ended. "I'm here to be the quarterback of this team, and every day I go out there and try to prove that to my teammates and my coaches. At the end of the day, that's what really matters.
"As far as next season, I go into the offseason, I'll make a list of goals for myself, whether it's work on my accuracy, work on intermediate throws, but the durability is No. 1 right now. We'll attack that, but then just as far as getting ready for next year, as long as the ankle's good, I think we'll be in a good spot."
With the Los Angeles Rams going all in to acquire Stafford, it's likely Garoppolo will return as the 49ers' starter in 2021. Yes, the Watson rumors will persist, but the Houston Texans reportedly aren't planning on trading the 25-year-old star, nor should they.
When healthy, Garoppolo has been a solid NFL quarterback with a clear ceiling. The 49ers are undoubtedly a much better team when he starts (Garoppolo is 24-9 as a starter including the postseason), but questions remain about whether or not Garoppolo can take the necessary leap to go from solid NFL starter to upper-tier signal-caller.
The first thing Garoppolo has to do is stay healthy. Garoppolo has missed 23 starts over the past three seasons. His injury history likely will prompt the 49ers to eventually invest in a change at quarterback or draft Garoppolo's successor.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have been clear that they believe in Garoppolo when he's healthy. With some tweaks around the edges, the 49ers should once again have a Super Bowl-caliber roster in 2021.
But whether or not they achieve their ultimate goal will come down to Garoppolo's health and his ability to take the leap Shanahan expects from him.