Steve Young isn’t convinced SF 49ers are set on Jimmy Garoppolo

ESPN analyst Steve Young Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
ESPN analyst Steve Young Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers could be without Jimmy Garoppolo for the rest of 2020, yet ESPN’s Steve Young isn’t convinced the quarterback is the long-term answer.

It’s more than evident the SF 49ers aren’t going to be getting back to the Super Bowl this season, and even making the playoffs looks like a longshot.

This, after the Niners lost tight end George Kittle (foot) and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle) to what are likely to be season-ending injuries following the team’s Week 8 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.

With the 2020 campaign awash, the focus naturally turns to 2021.

But that in of itself prompts a larger, more important question: Is Garoppolo going to be at the helm of the offense a year from now?

Hall of Fame great Steve Young isn’t so sure, expressing his doubts on ESPN Monday evening.

Young’s comments about Garoppolo’s future beyond this season were telling:

"The one question coming into this year that you had about the 49ers is can we get to a place where [head coach] Kyle Shanahan, this innovative head coach and one of the best in the league, can find a quarterback that he can trust and just be expansive with rather than protect. I think that’s been the issue with Jimmy, and I think that $25 million dollars and a shrinking salary cap with this injury?Let’s bat it around, but I don’t know how Jimmy winds up being the quarterback for the 49ers next year."

The differences in Garoppolo’s 2019 and 2020 campaigns have been awfully stark. Last year, Garoppolo’s 3,978 passing yards ended up fourth all time on the franchise’s single-season list, while his 69.1 completion percentage and 102.0 passer rating both ranked within the top 10 of all qualifiers.

This year, however, Garoppolo’s numbers have dropped down to 67.1 and 92.4, respectively.

Granted, Garoppolo’s injury suffered in Week 2 against the New York Jets has hobbled his efforts from within the pocket, and the scope suggests it never fully healed in the weeks since, prompting the inevitable move the SF 49ers will make to place him on injured reserve.

But the bigger question here is Jimmy G’s future. With the 2021 salary cap potentially dropping as low as $175 million, and the Niners already having as little as $18 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap, with a slew of important free agents to re-sign — namely fullback Kyle Juszczyk, left tackle Trent Williams and cornerback K’Waun Williams — one can see how Garoppolo’s current deal becomes problematic.

Garoppolo is poised to make up to $26.6 million next season, yet $24.1 million of that could be saved with just $2.8 million in dead money, should he be cut during the offseason.

For the financially strapped Niners, who aren’t viewing Garoppolo as the long-term answer according to Young, the move seems to be on the table.

“It’s the relationship between Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy,” Young added. “That’s what matters. …They’ve created a system that Jimmy can be successful in. It’s not the system Kyle wants to run.”

If not Jimmy Garoppolo, who winds up being the SF 49ers quarterback?

Young and the ESPN crew clearly looked at the SF 49ers backup to Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, who has already came in relief for Jimmy G multiple times this season, including a garbage-time 18-of-25 mark for 238 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks in Week 8.

Retaining Mullens, who is a restricted free agent, can likely be done on the cheap next season. But whether or not he’s anything close to a long-term solution under center, should the Niners part ways with Garoppolo, will ride heavily on the former’s efforts over the final eight weeks of the regular season.

A lack of cap space, even with a would-be Jimmy G cut, doesn’t necessarily make it easy for Shanahan and the 49ers to pursue well-established options either, especially if the free-agent market is particularly thin.

So that leaves options within the 2021 NFL Draft, where San Francisco is likely going to be picking much earlier than it otherwise might like.

Next. 5 quarterbacks to consider if 49ers pull plug on Jimmy Garoppolo. dark

But at least in Young’s viewpoint, Garoppolo’s time with the SF 49ers is coming to a close, prompting all that speculation from now until 2021.