Jimmy Garoppolo gaffes vs. Titans show why 49ers drafted Trey Lance

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Jimmy Garoppolo validates the drafting of Trey Lance more each game when the 49ers allow him to be a “fake” franchise quarterback.

Just when you thought the San Francisco 49ers were transforming themselves into a team with a legitimate playoff swagger, Jimmy Garoppolo reveals his truest form. The form of an inconsistent, average quarterback, capable of winning or losing a game in just a few decisive plays.

Those decisive plays were mostly lost Thursday night in a heartbreaking 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

These kinds of Garoppolo performances have been tolerated by head coach Kyle Shanahan for far too long. The question reasonable minds have pondered weeks ago should finally be discussed among the 49ers: When will the Trey Lance era begin?

Now, before we go all-in on Jimmy G, let’s make sure we understand, this is not the same Niners team that narrowly lost the Super Bowl in February of 2020. There is scarcely an elite unit to be found on this team. Inconsistency and injuries have plagued this team since the first few games of the year.

The dynamic efforts from the “true” franchise players on the team, like Deebo Samuel, Nick Bosa, and George Kittle, are canceled out by the play of rookies not quite ready for prime time and over-the-hill veterans who deserved walking papers weeks ago.

Even so, Garoppolo’s shortcomings were the main reason the 49ers drafted Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Jimmy Garoppolo takes big step back with performance vs. Titans

In Thursday’s pivotal game, Garoppolo showed the inconsistencies that will ultimately get him replaced. On the opening possession, he picked apart the Titans, allowing his playmakers to get open and use their skills to move the ball right down the field for a touchdown. He was decisive, accurate, and in-tune with his own abilities. The 49ers marched down the field again on the next possession, attempting to take a 14-0 lead.

Then disaster struck, as Garoppolo threw a terrible interception in the end zone.

That play seemed to outline how the rest of the night would unfold for Garoppolo. In the second quarter, he missed a wide-open Kyle Juszczyk streaking down the sideline.

He nearly threw another interception and almost lost a fumble before the half. After his next turnover in the third quarter, the game was up for grabs. The 49ers had solid control of the game early on and should have been up by three touchdowns, if not for Garoppolo’s mistakes.

The Niners have more than enough material to know exactly who Jimmy G is: a veteran play-caller, who still makes an incredible amount of rookie mistakes on a weekly basis. Garoppolo struggles with pocket awareness, does not even attempt certain throws outside the hashes, and sometimes looks down his first option for too long.

He does hold an impressive 30-14 record as the starting quarterback of this team, but there is no way he can receive all of the praise for that. He has played with plenty of talented teams throughout his starting tenure.

Unfortunately, the teams have never been the last ones standing as champions.

Garoppolo is at his best when he can rely on a strong running game and is not asked to perform beyond his capabilities. That sounds like the definition of a game manager, as opposed to a franchise quarterback. Those types of quarterbacks can be part of the reason teams end up raising the Lombardi trophy at the end of the year, just not the main reason.

Trey Lance is the 49ers future

Lance was drafted to be the cornerstone of the franchise, a quarterback with high expectations of winning divisions, providing deep playoff runs, and Super Bowl wins. Being drafted early in the first round, at that position, instantaneously brings a level of responsibility and hype.

Lance has the look of a franchise quarterback, too. He is strong, athletic, and in possession of a cannon right arm. If it wasn’t for inexperience and lack of game exposure in college, due to COVID-19, he might have already replaced Garoppolo, regardless of the playoff seed the Niners still occupy.

Is Lance ready to be the starting quarterback for San Francisco? There have always been arguments young players should sit, watch and learn before they are given the keys to the franchise. The opposing view says players get better playing, not sitting on the sideline.

Lance did make one start this year against the Arizona Cardinals, due to a Garoppolo calf injury. He struggled, as most rookies do in their first NFL start against a good team, but the moment wasn’t too big for him. He mainly relied on his athletic ability to gain yards but also showed good toughness and enough plays to keep the game close.

Quarterbacks have to pass to be successful, and like other young players, Lance needs to learn how to read defenses better and anticipate where his receivers will be ahead of time. With more playing time, he will develop a better rapport with Samuel, Kittle, and Co. Lance suffered an injury during the Cardinals game, which caused him to miss time.

Garoppolo started the next game and Lance has been the backup quarterback since.

Jimmy Garoppolo time as 49ers starter should be coming to an end

Yes, the 49ers are still most likely going to sneak into the playoffs, and they could even surprise a team in the first round. That was not the goal for this season.

Time to be honest and state the obvious: Jimmy G will not lead this team back to the Super Bowl.  Hope for the future sounds much better than delaying the inevitable. The 49ers need to remember why they wanted another quarterback.

This is not about the compensation the 49ers could acquire in a trade involving him. This is not about the team’s admiration and respect for Garoppolo. The time to worry about disruption and ruining offensive rhythm has passed.

Lance needs to get playing time with the starters in games and in practice. Garoppolo did some good things for this franchise, but his starting window has closed.

The time for the Lance era to begin is now.

Next. 4 free-agent QBs 49ers target to mentor Trey Lance in 2022. dark