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George Kittle supports Jimmy Garoppolo's return as 49ers' starter in 2021

With 2020 mercifully coming to a close, the question of what the San Francisco 49ers' brass will do about the quarterback position sits as one of the biggest quandaries of the coming year.

Option 1: Ride Jimmy Garoppolo for another season.

Option 2: Attempt to find an upgrade.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this week that he expects Jimmy G back but left the door open for a possible change, noting "you can't say anything with certainty."

For his part, star tight end George Kittle once again stumped for Garoppolo to keep his job.

"At the end of the day, I play tight end here, and I just work here, but I think that I do have a little bit of a voice, and I've said multiple times that I just love playing football with Jimmy G," Kittle said on KNBR Tuesday, via NBC Sports Bay Area. "Our team is different when he's out there, and that's why it's fun to play football with him because I think we both have big-time changes to our huddles when we're both on the football field.

"I can't say enough about the leader Jimmy G is, and how his presence changes how the team is feeling, how the team is going about its business, and how the team practices every day. Jimmy G is our quarterback, and moving forward, he's our quarterback, and that's all I really have to say about it.

"I'm going to go with the guy that took us to a Super Bowl and played at a high level the entire year. That's my case for Jimmy G, and I think it's a decent one."

The Niners can get out of Garoppolo's contract with relative ease, with under $3 million in dead money. With no large roster bonus due, the club also has the benefit of sifting through the offseason to entertain potential upgrades before officially committing to a decision on Jimmy G. Keeping the signal-caller isn't burdensome either, as his $26.6 million salary-cap hit is middling for a starter at this point.

With Garoppolo unlikely to return for the season finale against Seattle, he will have missed 23 games over the past three seasons due to injury. Since 2017, the 49ers are 24-9 (including postseason) with Garoppolo as the starter. Without him in the lineup, the Niners are 7-26. When on the field, the QB has been inconsistent, at times flashing timing and ability to hit targets in stride, leading to big plays. At others, he's put too many balls in harm's way and needs to be protected by his play-caller.

It's meaningful that Jimmy G has the support of a locker room leader like Kittle. But as the TE noted off the top of his praise, he's not the decision-maker.

Garoppolo's fate will come with whether Shanahan and GM John Lynch believe they can find a viable upgrade at the position or whether another year with the incumbent is the best route for 2021.

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