Kyle Shanahan: Jimmy Garoppolo is 49ers' starting QB 'right now'

Jack Baer
·3-min read

The 2021 NFL draft is over, and the San Francisco 49ers are one quarterback of the future richer. Now they just have to figure out where that leaves their quarterback of the present.

During an appearance on Monday's episode of "The Rich Eisen Show," Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed both the selection of North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance and last year's starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

When asked who will be starting under center, Shanahan firmly pointed to Garoppolo, but explained that the timeline will be dependent on Lance's development:

Jimmy's definitely our starter right now, and right now there isn't competition, because I don't believe Trey would be in a position to compete. Jimmy is too good of a player, he's got too good of a grasp of our offense. He'll start out OTAs running like he's done before, and he'll be the starting quarterback. I just see Trey coming in here, trying to learn everything, trying to learn his teammates. We'll just see how it goes. 

I'm not going to sit here and say I'll never play a rookie quarterback, and I'm not going to sit here and say I will play him. That's kind of up to him. When he's ready to compete, which that doesn't mean he tells me, that doesn't mean I tell him. We'll all see it, and I think it will start with me, but it will go to the coaches, it will go to the players. Guys know when a guy is ready to compete with the starter. You kind of get that vibe. As soon as it's like that, I will let them compete, but I'm not really setting a date on it, because I know how hard that will be.

Shanahan also spoke highly of Garoppolo's handling of the situation, noting that the veteran hasn't requested a trade and remains a player of value to the team. Lance himself has praised Garoppolo for reaching out after his selection.

When will Trey Lance take over for Niners?

Even before the Niners drafted Lance, it was widely presumed the team would be looking to move on from Garoppolo after trading for the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Some expected a trade before the draft, but Shanahan's comments imply the team wants to hold onto its starting QB of the last three-and-a-half seasons.

That makes sense since Lance is a rather unique prospect as a quarterback, as he's played in only one game since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the complexities of the Niners offense, Lance could have a long road before he's deemed ready.

We've all seen this movie before, though. A team with an established veteran at quarterback selects a quarterback with a high draft pick, and it's pretty much inevitable the younger quarterback will eventually take over. Sometimes it takes just one offseason, sometimes it takes a full year or two, and sometimes a doctor sticks a needle in the wrong place.

Holding onto Garoppolo at least gives San Francisco a known quantity as it tries to contend in the short-term, but it drafted Lance for a reason.

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