Jimmy Garoppolo might still end up being the 49ers starter in Week 5 on the road against the Cardinals, as his calf injury isn’t apparently that serious.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan might be facing a bit of an existential crisis with regards to his starting quarterback situation.
The answer was potentially clearer following the veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo, suffering a calf injury in the Niners’ Week 4 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Garoppolo initially told reporters he was hoping the injury would set him back “a couple of weeks” and that was it.
Yet that would have also opened up the door for the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 3 overall pick, Trey Lance, to get his first pro-level start.
Lance came in relief of Garoppolo in Week 4 and had his moments, both up and down. But if Garoppolo was to miss time, Shanahan would have had no other choice but to start the rookie.
Jimmy Garoppolo reveals his injury wasn’t as bad as it appeared
During Sunday’s postgame presser, Garoppolo was noticeably shaken he could potentially miss a lengthy amount of time after yet another injury, which is the latest in a long line of injury setbacks for the 29 year old.
Despite not practicing on Wednesday, though, Garoppolo appeared much more optimistic about his chances.
“[I] just pulled the calf a little bit,” Garoppolo said, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “Nothing too serious. … Tweaked the muscle. … I strained it a little bit.”
Garoppolo also revealed he was planning on playing for San Francisco’s Week 5 road game against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, who now find themselves sitting alone atop the NFC West.
He was not present for the start of practice on Thursday, though.
Will 49ers start Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance vs. Cardinals?
Here’s where Shanahan’s existential crisis comes into play.
Lance is the future of the franchise. There’s no getting around that, especially after the 49ers traded two future first-round picks and a third-rounder to move up to No. 3 overall this year. And Shanahan’s coaching tenure with the Niners will forever be linked to how Lance develops and performs in the coming years.
Yet there’s still the argument, albeit a diminishing one, Lance is nowhere near ready to assume starter’s duties.
If Shanahan bypasses a relatively healthy Garoppolo in favor of Lance, it’ll be tough to revert back from the rookie to the veteran, especially if Lance performs well enough. As such, that’ll likely be the end of Jimmy G’s starting days in a San Francisco uniform.
Could Shanahan stick to his previous game plan and roll with Garoppolo once more, all the while knowing Lance is now at the point where he needs extended on-field play to further his development?
There’s a third option at play here, too.
The 49ers have their bye in Week 6, so it’s feasible Shanahan could “give Garoppolo the weekend off” as a starter at Arizona, letting Lance get his shot and seeing how he performs.
If Lance plays well, Shanahan has his answer. If not, Garoppolo would get two weeks’ worth of rest.
Even if Lance should still be under center in the much-needed attempt to continue his maturation.