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This one is starting to get weird.
We knew the San Francisco 49ers decided last year that Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t their quarterback of the future because they traded away three first-round draft picks and a really nice section of the Golden Gate bridge to Miami so they could climb to the No. 3 overall slot in the draft.
And with that high slot, the team picked quarterback Trey Lance, and that selection made a statement.
Trey Lance is the future.
Jimmy G, well, he’s really good looking and helped the 49ers get to the Super Bowl in 2020, but he’s often injured and so he can hang around a season and then it’s on to the new guy.
Garoppolo made the most of that difficult situation because, despite more injuries, he helped the 49ers reach the NFC title game. And everyone was thrilled because it meant the quarterback’s play had basically improved his trade market for the 2022 offseason.
Garoppolo, seeing the writing on the way, said his farewells after the season and went off onto the next phase of his life.
And the 49ers, very appreciative of Garoppolo’s fine 2021 performance, started taking calls to trade him. Because, again, they have a plan and it is to hand the reins of the offense to Lance starting next season.
But a funny (terrible) thing happened as the trade was about to get worked out.
Garoppolo decided to have surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder in March. The quarterback with the good but not great arm was trying to have the torn capsule of his right shoulder repaired by the opening of training camps around the league.
But once he had surgery, he could not throw for 16 weeks.
And that had consequences for the 49ers.
“I felt we were close in some discussions, and then the decision was made to have surgery and it brought things to a screeching halt,” San Francisco general manager John Lynch told KNBR radio Monday afternoon. “We either want to have Jimmy playing for us, which we’re alright with, or we want him to get the value.”
So to be clear: The 49ers were down the road to trading Garoppolo and then the surgery derailed their plans.
And where does that leave everyone now?
The 49ers will hang onto Garoppolo until someone gives them market value for him while they still fully expect to go with Lance as their starter when training camp begins.
So the Trey Lance era is on deck.
But unless some team gets comfortable enough with Garoppolo’s recovery to give up what San Francisco wants for him — and that’s no less than a second-round draft pick, according to a source — then Lynch intends to bring Garoppolo back to training camp with the Niners.
It’s awkward because the idea would be to have the guy who helped the team get to a Super Bowl and an NFC Championship Game in two out of three years be the backup to a player who is much more physically gifted but less experienced and prepared to play.
And the hope would be some team, seeing what it has at quarterback and seeing Garoppolo healthy (assuming he is), would then make the trade for the 49ers backup quarterback.
The 49ers, at that point, would benefit from the trade by clearing $25.5 million in salary cap space.
(They would have loved to clear that space this offseason to attend to business, but life happened.)
It’s a solid plan.
But as we’ve already seen, the plan here can go sideways because, well, it already has.
So what if the 49ers get to training camp and Garoppolo is better than Lance?
Yes, a trade would remove the obstacle for Lance. But if no trade manifests, the entire coaching staff and locker room would see the guy on the trade block is better than the guy who is the franchise’s future and because the 49ers are in win-now mode, they’d likely wish Garoppolo would stay.
It’s already happening.
At the Super Bowl, no less than Joe Montana told anyone who would listen during his numerous interviews, that he preferred San Francisco keep Garoppolo because Lance wasn’t ready.
“Talking to some of the players, they’re saying they don’t think Trey is ready yet,” Montana said. “Hearing that, I think you should keep Jimmy.”
Understand the context here: The man who had to leave San Francisco to make way for the dawn of the Steve Young era believes Jimmy G should be kept on the team.
This creates a bit of a shadow under which Lance will have to operate as long as Garoppolo is around.
And, I get it, if this was 1990 — when everyone wasn’t all in their feelings — we might all think this situation is just fine.
You’re the starter, Trey. Do your job.
You’re the backup, Jimmy. Be a good soldier and follow orders.
But this is 2022 and we’re worried about team chemistry and divided locker rooms and gauging people’s opinions because everyone has one.
Beyond that, we all know if the ’22 season arrives and Garoppolo is still on the roster and the coaching staff thinks he’s still better …
…Well, that’s going to be weird.