Until the 49ers line up for their first snap of the 2021 season, there will be questions about their quarterback situation.
The topic was broached minutes after Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2020 season finale as speculation grows about coach Kyle Shanahan being open to moving away from Jimmy Garoppolo, which he explained earlier in the week.
Right tackle Mike McGlinchey was asked about Garoppolo’s value after Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“I believe that our team needs him,” McGlinchey said. “I believe that our team is clearly different without him. And the person that Jimmy is, the competitor that he is and the talent that he is, when he’s on, the results speak for themselves. That’s all I really have to say about that.”
Said receiver Kendrick Bourne, a looming free agent in the spring, “I really don’t know, man. We’ll see. I don’t know if they’re talking about drafting anybody. But I believe in Jimmy, I believe C.J. (Beathard) and Nick (Mullens). I believe in all those guys. I caught a touchdown from each one of them. So I don’t really mind who’s back there. Hopefully we get Jimmy G back.”
ESPN’s Chris Mortenson added fuel to the speculation on Sunday NFL Countdown when he said, “Most league insiders believe if there’s a better option, the 49ers will have somebody other than Garoppolo at the start of next season.”
In truth, that parroted what Shanahan said Monday, when he said he expects Garoppolo to be the starter but wouldn’t make any guarantees, noting he’ll treat the game’s most important position like any other. It’s the same situation the 49ers were in last offseason when they considered signing Tom Brady before sticking with Garoppolo after losing the Super Bowl.
“Now, you look into every avenue, and you see if there’s something out there that can get you a ton better, it’s the same answer for every position,” Shanahan said. “But look at Jimmy, look at what he’s done, look at where he’s at with us financially, and we better have a very good answer if you’re going to find something better than that. Jimmy’s shown in one year he’s a guy that can take us to the Super Bowl, and I also think Jimmy’s going to get a lot better the more he plays.”
It’s more complicated than the 49ers deciding to stick with Garoppolo or move on. As Shanahan said, it’s about getting something better if they do move on, and it’s difficult to forecast there being a better option. The Lions, for example, don’t have a head coach or general manager, making it difficult to forecast the future of Matthew Stafford, who has been a popular name in trade rumors.
And there’s always uncertainty in the NFL draft. The 49ers believe they’ll be Super Bowl contenders next season, but no rookie quarterback has ever won a Super Bowl. Plus, it would likely take a slew of draft picks to trade up to get a difference-maker at quarterback when so many teams need one. For a team that’s cash-strapped and faces a number of important players to sign, trading away draft picks isn’t an easy pill to swallow.
Lynch and Shananan will address reporters in their regular season postmortem Monday, which will likely include more talk about them expecting Garoppolo to be back, while also pointing out they’ll always keep an eye out for upgrades.
At every position.
2021 draft slot, opponents settled
The conclusion of the season means some important aspects of 2021 were finalized. The 49ers will have pick No. 12 in the first round of the NFL draft, thanks to a win by the Raiders over the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.
San Francisco picks behind a slew of teams that could be in the market for quarterbacks, including the Panthers (No. 8), Broncos (No. 9) and New York Giants (No. 11), which means they would likely have to move up more than five spots if they’re planning on adding a quarterback.
If not, look for that pick to be used on another pass rusher to complement Nick Bosa (with Dee Ford’s future in doubt), a cornerback, or perhaps an offensive lineman that could fortify the interior.
Sunday also finalized the standings, which means next season’s opponents have been solidified. It’s been known the 49ers will play the AFC South and NFC North, along with the NFC teams that finished last place in their division, as San Francisco did at 6-10.
Home: Green Bay, Houston, Minnesota, Atlanta, Indianapolis, L.A. Rams, Seattle and Arizona.
Road: Philadelphia, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Detroit, Chicago, L.A. Rams, Seattle and Arizona.
If a 17th game is added to the schedule, the 49ers are reportedly expected to play the Cincinnati Bengals, their opponent from Week 2 in 2019. The location of the game remains up in the air.
▪ Linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles received his first career start with Dre Greenlaw out with a calf injury. He finished with one tackle on defense and one on special teams.
▪ Rookie guard Colton McKivitz got his first start at guard since Week 14 against Washington. Tom Compton also played some right guard in his first game since coming off injured reserve due to a concussion.
▪ Defensive end Dion Jordan was ruled out with a knee injury early in the third quarter. He was the only injured player mentioned by Shanahan postgame.
▪ Nose tackle D.J. Jones limped off the field midway through the fourth quarter but returned.
▪ The 49ers’ inactives Sunday were all ruled out Friday. They were: receiver Brandon Aiyuk (ankle), defensive tackle Kevin Givens (not injury related), Greenlaw (calf), defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (knee), receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring), cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and slot corner K’Waun Williams (shin).
Backup quarterback Josh Johnson was restored to the practice squad but was not activated in time for Sunday after spending last week on the COVID list. Josh Rosen served as C.J. Beathard’s backup for the second straight week.
The team on Saturday activated Compton (concussion) off injured reserve and promoted defensive lineman Josiah Coatney and offensive lineman Isaiah Williams off the practice squad as COVID replacements. Coatney played sparingly on defense.
Receiver Jordan Matthews and kicker Tristan Vizcaino were also promoted from the practice squad. Matthews was a replacement for Aiyuk while Vizcaino kicked in place of Robbie Gould, who landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week. Vizcaino made all his kicks, including three field goals and two extra points.
Offensive lineman Aaron Neary was released from the practice squad Saturday.