Going into the 2021 season, most would have expected Jimmy Garoppolo to make way for Trey Lance, provided the rookie lit up training camp. However, few have considered that Garoppolo could be the rare bridge quarterback to survive the successor's rookie season.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan lavished praise on Garoppolo this week, essentially claiming he can beat any rookie if he's playing well enough.
Shanahan said the following to the NFL's website:
"It's not been as hard as you think," he said when asked when he might play Lance. "In this business, if you're trying to plan out the next six months and say, 'Where's it going?' that's a mistake. You can't do it. What I told Jimmy right when we made the trade is, 'I don't know any rookie who can come and beat you out if you're playing at his best self.' I didn't necessarily think he was there last year at training camp. Then he had the injuries and stuff. But right now, I see him playing well out here. If he can continue to go that way, that's great for Trey. That's great for our team. Then Trey can wait till he's at his best self, which doesn't happen overnight."
Shanahan essentially came out and said the reason they picked up Trey Lance was due to Garoppolo's availability, or lack thereof.
Most NFL pundits have said that this was the reason for drafting Trey Lance, but this is about as clear as Kyle Shanahan has been on the subject.
Jimmy Garoppolo's chances in 2021
Jimmy Garoppolo has had an injury-laden past, missing significant time in 2020, 2018 and 2016. However, this means that the odds are in Garoppolo's favor when it comes to remaining healthy this season. This makes things interesting for Trey Lance, since the only other year that Garoppolo played in full led to a Super Bowl appearance.
In that season, Garoppolo threw for 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. If he can match that level of production in 2021, Garoppolo will likely keep the starting job. Of course, it will be up to Shanahan. He could be looking at the constant swapping the Miami Dolphins did last year with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa as a possibility.
If Garoppolo plays well enough to keep the 49ers in the hunt, there is a chance he could keep the job long enough to take on his old mentor in Tom Brady in the playoffs this year. Of course, there is a long road between then and now. Will Garoppolo hold off the rookie? Or will the Lance Dance Revolution take over in San Francisco?