How 49ers botched their handling of Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance in 2021

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers may have been good enough to get to the playoffs with Jimmy Garoppolo, but their handling of him and Trey Lance has been a flawed process from the start.

The San Francisco 49ers know what they have in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and it unfortunately comes down to one word: average.

Fans can attest to this. So can head coach Kyle Shanahan. Garoppolo is a week-to-week challenge, and it’s not hard to find tweets about “good Jimmy” or “bad Jimmy” on any given Sunday. Particularly when he tossed two rather bone-headed interceptions during the Week 13 road loss to a vulnerable and disjointed Seattle Seahawks team.

There were other mistakes, too, a lot of them. Not all of them on Garoppolo either. But that’s where the “average” designation comes into play.

In short, Garoppolo can help the Niners win games when other factors are working well, such as the run game. When it’s not — and it wasn’t against Seattle, as San Francisco averaged 2.8 yards per carry — Garoppolo isn’t good enough to elevate the offense and, in part, the rest of the team.

Shanahan has known this for a while now. It’s the bigger, blunter reason why the 49ers aggressively traded up in last spring’s NFL Draft to grab Trey Lance, the rookie who hasn’t seen the field since his lone start of the year way back in Week 5.

As our good friend Jose Sanchez of Sports Illustrated pointed out, Lance was brought in to rectify Garoppolo’s shortcomings, ones which include being “an eight-year veteran, yet he is still making rookie mistakes.”

Like the ones against Seattle.

With the Niners on the cusp of a Wild Card berth, and Lance’s development halted by Shanahan sticking with Garoppolo, don’t expect anything to change now. At least not until San Francisco is fully eliminated, either in the postseason or just before it.

That said, the 49ers have completely botched the situation between Garoppolo and Lance, and it goes back far earlier than just Week 13.

Let’s explore how.