The 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo not for the 2017 season, but beyond. And while coach Kyle Shanahan made some scratch their heads by saying the former Patriots quarterback might not even play this season, it actually makes sense when you understand the mindset.
Garoppolo is their 2018 second-round draft pick. That's the thought process, though he's a player who both teams believe is far more talented than that.
A few days after the surprising trade prior to the deadline last week, conversations with sources with direct knowledge of the situation painted a more complete picture about why the trade happened and how San Francisco plans to deploy him.
Both sides believe the Niners got a "stud," with members of the SF organization making that conclusion after they studied him coming out of the draft. But they did not trade for him to save the season. He'll backup C.J. Beathard against the Cardinals on Sunday and could be functional in the offense if needed. But they will not put him out on the field until he's ready with the playbook and until the supporting cast on this injury-depleted team can protect him and help him thrive.
The Patriots also believe he is a franchise quarterback -- character-wise and on-the-field -- but only traded for him because of two main factors:
- Garoppolo and New England couldn't come close to a contract extension when the talks were broached in the spring. Had they gotten Garoppolo to accept a backup-plus contract, he wouldn't have been traded. That opened the door to a trade before he walked in free agency.
- The Patriots believe Tom Brady will play for years to come, and they're confident in that assessment after seeing the 40-year-old's level of play through the first half of the season. They consider keeping Garoppolo to be insurance for the first half of the season against a Brady decline. It never came close to happening.
Trading Brady was never an option and won't be an option for the Patriots. He will play as long as he wants, with the belief that the greatest QB of all time will know when to hang 'em up.
So, dealing Garoppolo was the only way to get something out of the QB situation and do what's best for the team.
This offseason, Garoppolo wasn't available, despite the fact that several teams called. The Cleveland Browns offered a second-rounder and a mid-round pick, but it never was seriously considered.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who took the lead on this particular deal, was deeply thoughtful about trading a player he loved and felt could be their franchise QB in a different situation. He sought out the 49ers, worked quickly, and finished the deal in a day. His respect for general manager John Lynch and Shanahan was evident, as was his desire to make sure Garoppolo had a landing spot that would contribute to future success.
As for the 49ers, trading for Garoppolo means they won't pursue Shanahan's former pupil Kirk Cousins. If San Francisco was gearing up to have to choose between the two during the 2018 offseason it never came to that.
Cousins was always a target, but Garoppolo was presented as a current and very viable option. They made the somewhat easy call to take the sure thing in Jimmy G now, rather than wait for the possibility Cousins would be available (knowing you can't predict how the Redskins will proceed).
So Garoppolo lands in San Francisco, with the chance to play -- what he always wanted. But he's on board with the coaches' plan, and will wait until they feel he's ready. Make no mistake, the Niners love what they've seen from Garoppolo. He's picking up the offense quickly and has helped Beathard. But he wasn't brought here to save their 2017 season.
The 49ers brass knows there are a multitude of injuries all around. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon was placed on injured reserve Saturday and offensive tackle Joe Staley (orbital bone) won't play Sunday. Undrafted free agents dot their lineup. If Garoppolo was the only one unfamiliar with the terminology, veterans could step in and help. But those guys really aren't there to help.
A player who projects to have a similar skill set to former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is exactly what the 49ers wanted. And they couldn't be happier that this opportunity was presented to them. But from what it sounds, the earliest you could see him is after the bye and even then, there is no guarantee.