Jimmy Garoppolo injury has ripple effects on Trey Lance, Brock Purdy

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

Jimmy Garoppolo suffering a season-ending injury in Week 13 is only the beginning of questions the 49ers will have to answer for the rest of the year and beyond.

Rarely will a team have a legitimate chance of making it into the postseason when it’s down to a third-string quarterback poised to start the rest of the year.

Yet that’s the reality the San Francisco 49ers face, first after having to transition from quarterback Trey Lance to the no-longer-a-lame-duck veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo, who played awfully well from Week 2 and into Week 13 before suffering a regular-season-ending foot injury (reports state he could be back in time for the playoffs) that led the way to the Niners having to rely on seventh-round rookie signal-caller Brock Purdy to leg the final stretch of the playoff race.

It all sounds like a bad Hollywood movie, except that the reality is very much real. And the ramifications of Garoppolo’s injury are going to be widespread and wholly unpredictable.

Do 49ers re-sign Jimmy Garoppolo after his latest injury?

Rewinding to when San Francisco made the aggressive move to trade up for Lance back in 2021, head coach Kyle Shanahan did say a key reason why the 49ers traded up to No. 3 overall in that year’s NFL Draft was because of Garoppolo’s significant injury history.

There are surely other reasons, too, but Shanahan made those comments public after the trade-up.

However, amid Garoppolo’s 2022 campaign in which he was arguably playing the best football of his career, thoughts and reports both suggested a reunion between him and the Niners was certainly possible.

Related Story: Why Jimmy Garoppolo (not Trey Lance) starts for 49ers in 2023

Right away, Shanahan is faced with a conundrum. Garoppolo won’t return to San Francisco to serve as a backup to Lance again, that much is clear. However, if Shanahan still isn’t sold on Lance who has now barely seen the field in two years since going pro, would Garoppolo’s latest injury be yet another reason why the 49ers need to move on?

Or do the Niners take advantage of it, hoping Jimmy G would return on a cheaper deal in the wake of his injury?

How does Jimmy Garoppolo impact Trey Lance now?

Directly related to the above, Lance’s own season-ending ankle injury opened the door for Garoppolo to excel in his best year with San Francisco, tossing an impressive 103.0 passer rating, which is the highest since he joined the squad back in 2017.

Had his Week 13 injury not happened, Garoppolo might have priced himself out of the 49ers’ comfort range this offseason, and he certainly wouldn’t return to merely play “second fiddle” to Lance again.

Shanahan shot down any notion of Lance returning this year, either in the regular season or in the playoffs, so that’ll be one more thing working against the 2021 first-round draft pick.

Lance, who started two games in his rookie year and barely made it into his second start of 2022 before getting hurt, will have not played a full season of organized football since 2019.

That’s not in his favor.

Yet the Niners could still be in his camp very much, especially if they look at Garoppolo’s injury as a final “we knew this was going to happen eventually” moment, ultimately turning the page under center.

However, if San Francisco can’t quit Garoppolo and actually sees his injury as a cost-lowering blessing, it’s more bad news for Lance.

What if Brock Purdy plays well for 49ers?

Here’s a true wild card.

The 49ers shouldn’t expect much out of their new starter, Purdy, who has gone from being Mr. Irrelevant, the final pick in the NFL Draft, to starting for a Niners team that has a legitimate chance of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

That chance wouldn’t have been there if both Lance and Garoppolo hadn’t been injured.

Purdy played well in relief of Garoppolo in Week 13, passing for 210 yards with two touchdowns against one interception, and earned some lofty praise from his teammates along the way.

Again, one game isn’t going to cement Purdy as San Francisco’s next-best long-term option at quarterback. Not even close. However, there is the chance Purdy plays well enough down the stretch to put even more pressure on the 49ers’ decision-making process with both Garoppolo and Lance.

If the Niners remain committed to Lance as the 2023 starter, Garoppolo is likely out the door anyway, so that’s a moot point. But, if San Francisco isn’t sold on Lance and is entertaining Garoppolo’s return, yet Purdy far exceeds expectations, how might that shake up the choices Shanahan has in front of him this offseason?

It’s compelling. And it won’t go away anytime soon unless Purdy completely flops down the stretch.

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