After back-to-back losses, the San Francisco 49ers find themselves with a 3-4 record despite having one of the league’s best defenses and a roster full of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
As has been the case for the past few years, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is viewed as the Achilles’ heel of the roster, and former Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns executive Joe Banner wonders if he is holding the team back — and if the 49ers might explore a trade option ahead of the trade deadline.
“The 49ers are now 3-4, which is astounding considering the wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. I don’t know if they’re going to get it together, but if there was a quarterback they could trade for before the deadline next week, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they made a move. The 49ers should be competing with Philadelphia right now for the best record in the NFC based on talent alone. Instead, they’re in third place in the NFC West, a game behind Seattle.”
The 49ers have already invested so many resources in the quarterback position — and just gave up more draft picks to acquire Christian McCaffrey — that it seems unlikely they would be in the market for another quarterback. It also does not seem prudent or realistic to throw a new face into the offense midway through the season and expect it to make a difference, but the fact it is even suggested is eye-opening.
Garoppolo remains a fascinating player in the NFL. By every objective measure his teams have been wildly successful. His squads are 35-17 in the regular season when he starts (that is an 11.5-win average per 17 games) and have had success in the playoffs, including making to the Super Bowl. Most teams in the NFL would love to have that sort of success.
However, that success oftentimes seems to be in spite of Garoppolo and not because of him. He has a problem with turning the ball over, is not a game-changer at the most important position, and is a tier or two below the true franchise quarterbacks in the league despite having a plethora of playmakers around him. The 49ers added to that list of playmakers this past week by sending multiple draft picks to the Carolina Panthers for McCaffrey.
Banner is not the only person questioning Garoppolo’s ability to elevate the roster.
SFGate.com’s Robert O’Connell also questioned the decision to trade for McCaffrey given the way the offense has been so stagnant with Garoppolo at quarterback and what impact that has on the team’s ability to compete for a Super Bowl.
Even drives that didn’t end with Garoppolo giving the ball to the other team lacked all rhythm. At one representative point, [Deebo] Samuel beat his man quick and created space on an in-breaking route. From the middle of a clean pocket, Garoppolo spotted his star wideout with open field in front of him, and fluttered the ball behind his hips. More than the afternoon’s assorted nadirs, the incompletion – hardly drastic, immensely frustrating, and totally familiar – captured the dynamics of the 49ers’ group project.
The 49ers themselves had so little faith in him to be “the guy” that they gave up a boatload of draft picks a year ago to select Trey Lance at the top of the draft.
Lance entered this season as the starter, and after failed attempts to trade Garoppolo, the 49ers kept him on a restructured contract. It was seen as an ideal situation to have the young franchise quarterback ready to take over while having a proven backup behind him as a safety net. It has not quite worked out that way at all. The Niners still have no idea if Lance is good, and Garoppolo is still seen as the weak link holding back a Super Bowl-caliber roster.