The time will come after this season when the 49ers will engage in high-level discussions about what to do at quarterback for the 2021 season and beyond.
ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Louis Riddick said he believes the decision could go either way.
He also feels those conversations will be multi-layered. Performance, the prospect for improvement, salary-cap implications and personal relationships all will be measured and considered, he said.
"Those are such big decisions and for all intents and purposes, they’re pretty personal decisions when you’re talking about the relationship between a head coach and the quarterback, and the GM and the quarterback, ownership and the quarterback, and what they invested in Jimmy when they got him from New England," Riddick said on "49ers Talk".
Riddick, who interviewed for the 49ers' general manager position in 2017, will be in the ESPN broadcast booth Monday night when the 49ers face the Buffalo Bills in Glendale, Arizona.
The 49ers are 24-9 in games Garoppolo has started since his midseason arrival in 2017 in a trade from New England. That record includes the 49ers' Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
If the 49ers had not squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, there probably would not be a lot of speculation about what coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are going to do this offseason, Riddick said.
"I think we know what Kyle’s offense is, and I think we know that Jimmy can operate very well within that offense because, again, when you’re talking about two throws in the Super Bowl, one of them from Patrick Mahomes and one from Jimmy Garoppolo that he misses on Emmanuel Sanders, that’s the difference in that football game, essentially," Riddick said.
"That is the difference between Jimmy being a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and not. And if he hits that throw, he’s probably the Super Bowl MVP for the winning team. So you see how quickly the perception with him could’ve been changed on one throw."
On a third-and-nine from the Kansas City 49-yard line with 1:40 remaining, Sanders got behind the defense on a deep post route. Garoppolo's throw sailed long. On fourth down, Garoppolo was sacked. The 49ers were trailing 24-20, and went on to a 31-20 loss after leading 20-10 midway through the fourth quarter.
"And I know that now, because he missed that throw, and because of the fact he isn’t a 4,500-yard passer or 4,000-yard passer and passing for 40 touchdowns like Patrick and some of these other quarterbacks, that people think, ‘Well, they need to move on and find somebody more dynamic,'" Riddick said.
"Maybe they do. Maybe they feel that way. Maybe they feel that he can manage this offense in the context of what they want to do offensively just fine. I don’t know that."
Garoppolo remains on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain. Nick Mullens will make his sixth start of the season as the 49ers (5-6) are in a battle to keep their playoff hopes alive with games remaining against Buffalo, Washington, Dallas, Arizona and Seattle.
Then, the 49ers have a decision to make at quarterback. The 49ers can create $24.1 million in salary-cap space if they move on from Garoppolo this offseason.
But the bigger dilemma facing the organization might be how to replace Garoppolo.
"I think it can go either way, though," Riddick said. "Sitting here as an analyst, I think there’s no question that he can go either way. I think everybody knows that. I think there will be arguments for both sides, as far as keeping him and going ahead and moving down the road and seeing what their next plan can be.
"That’s what makes the NFL so cool, right? That’s why people tune in 24/7. Because you just don’t know how this stuff is going to go."