SF 49ers: Maybe Jimmy Garoppolo is pretty important to Kyle Shanahan

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

Kyle Shanahan and the SF 49ers could move on from Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021. But Shanahan hasn’t been able to win without Jimmy G.

Are the SF 49ers and head coach Kyle Shanahan dead set on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo heading into 2021?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Shanahan has told reporters he expects “Jimmy to be our starter next year,” yet there’s no shortage of evidence suggesting the Niners head coach wants to upgrade the position to put his offense at a level it hasn’t quite reached since Shanahan took over duties in 2017.

But there’s one telling stat that jumps out when looking at Shanahan and the SF 49ers with Garoppolo under center compared to when he’s not there: the record.

Shanahan’s win-loss mark is 22-8 in games where Garoppolo was the starter. In games where Garoppolo wasn’t starting, Shanahan’s Niners have gone 6-24.

For those thinking Shanahan is a quarterback mastermind who can turn any modest signal-caller into a workable commodity in his offense, the bottom line says otherwise.

Yes, there are plenty of other factors at play here. And in general, quarterback wins are a silly stat. Just like in Major League Baseball, it’s not a tell-all to judge a starting pitcher solely by his win-loss record. One has to factor in ERA, WHIP, a strikeout-to-walk ratio and his own offensive run support.

It’s not much different in the NFL.

Still, the stark contrast between games in which Garoppolo has started compared to games where he hasn’t is awfully telling.

Why Jimmy Garoppolo is important to Kyle Shanahan, SF 49ers

Is Garoppolo the perfect quarterback for Shanahan? No. There are certainly Jimmy G’s limitations, and the total chatter about San Francisco offboarding its starting quarterback this offseason has plenty of merits.

But if not Garoppolo, who else?

It’s easy to dismiss Jimmy G as a long-term fixture. Teams do move on from good quarterbacks to take a flier on someone potentially better. The Kansas City Chiefs doing so with quarterback Patrick Mahomes to replace a successful veteran, Alex Smith, is a prime example. And perhaps that’s the end game for Garoppolo with the SF 49ers.

At the same time, Shanahan certainly understands his other Niners quarterbacks aside from Jimmy G haven’t had anything close to the kind of success one would require to be a playoff contender. Brian Hoyer flamed out after six losses, C.J. Beathard was a third-round disappointment, and Nick Mullens has shown nothing more than being capable of serving as a modest backup at best.

San Francisco might move on from Garoppolo this offseason. Yet that opens up a Pandora’s box of possibilities next year. Could Shanahan trade for an established veteran, perhaps the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford or the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan? Sure. But those two players aren’t exactly cheaper options, and the SF 49ers have plenty of their own salary-cap restraints for 2021. There are going to be low-budget “bridge” quarterbacking options next year, yes. However, any of those aren’t going to be a real upgrade either.

Then there’s the NFL Draft, and a high pick on a prospective signal-caller would signify a pretty significant reconstruction of Shanahan’s offense, essentially closing the current Super Bowl window in the hopes of opening up another sooner than later down the road.

If that rookie quarterback pans out, of course. For every Mahomes out there, there’s easily a Mitchell Trubisky of the Chicago Bears.

Perhaps in the case of Garoppolo, Shanahan and the SF 49ers, it’s the proverbial “devil you know.”

Garoppolo is far from perfect, and one can certainly admit he’s not going to be an elite-level quarterback capable of engineering a high-octane offense with the Niners.

Next. 4 reasons why 49ers don't move on from Jimmy Garoppolo. dark

At the same time, though, Garoppolo has given the one thing Shanahan hasn’t gotten with anyone else over three-plus years: wins.

Don’t overlook that.