SANTA CLARA — The 49ers’ days of needing a stopgap quarterback are numbered.
On Tuesday, the team finalized its deal with the New England Patriots for Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s played well in limited opportunities.
Jimmy G was supposed to take over when 40-year old Tom Brady retired, but Bill Belichick moved the younger QB at the trade deadline — the coach’s last opportunity to get something for Garoppolo before he was due for a pay raise this offseason when his contract expires.
It cost the Niners a second-round pick in next year’s draft. If you take Belichick’s comments at face value, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch just committed robbery by taking Garoppolo, who turns 26 on Thursday, from the Pats.
“It’s definitely not something we wanted to walk away from,” Belichick told reporters. “I felt like we rode it out as long as we could. Over a period of time, we explored every option possible to try to sustain it. But at this point, felt like we had to make a decision.”
There’s reason to believe Belichick is being genuine. Lynch revealed on Tuesday that the 49ers inquired about Garoppolo in the offseason, and New England wanted nothing to do with discussing a trade.
But aside from a glowing recommendation from one of the best coaches in NFL history and an apprenticeship under Brady, there’s little evidence to suggest Garappolo is going to be a savior for the winless Niners. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s played just 228 snaps — not much more than rookie CJ Beathard, who took over as the starter in Week 7.
Basically, he’s built a sterling reputation by one impressive, shortened-by-injury start in 2016 — when Brady was suspended for his role in Deflategate — and by carving up bench players in preseason games.
Regardless, Shanahan and Lynch didn’t need much convincing to get the deal done.
“We brought him here because we want him to be the quarterback of the future,” Shanahan said.
The Faithful who are anxious to see Garoppolo on the field will have to practice patience. Although the QB said he’s eager to get out there, the organization is considering him week-to-week. They need to hammer in the unique language used in Shanahan’s offense. At 0-8, what’s the rush?
Also, as Lynch pointed out, the 49ers have put a significant investment in Jimmy G by dealing a high pick for him. For a rebuilding team, those picks are the currency that buys future success. So, don’t put a guy out behind a makeshift offensive line. (Joe Staley is recovering from an eye injury, and Trent Brown is working his way through the concussion protocol — and those are just the good players in that unit.)
“We would love for him to help us right now. But this is more about the big picture, too,” Shanahan said, indirectly acknowledging the reality that he alluded to on Monday when he admitted he didn’t know who his left tackle would be.
In the short term, Beathard will continue to get beat up and struggle to lead the 49ers offense to scoring drives. That’s good in the long term, because the Niners can use the high draft pick their shaky QB play yields on weapons for Garoppolo.
Beathard, a former third-rounder, will eventually cede time and return to a backup role, for which he’s better suited. But the Faithful can rest easy, knowing their team has made a move to address the most important position on the field.
Shanahan characterized the move as an opportunity “that’s too good” pass up.
“So, we didn’t hesitate,” he said.
Now, they can comfortably return to playing the long game.