All signs point to the Trey Lance era beginning in San Francisco, but questions will arise as long as Jimmy Garoppolo remains in the 49ers roster.
Star tight end George Kittle opened up about the 49ers’ most intriguing history as he headed into the 2022 season, breaking down the two quarterbacks when asked which he would prefer.
“That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?” Kittle told reporters on Pro Football Talk on Friday. “That’s one reason I’m glad I’m not the head coach of the 49ers. It’s all up to Coach (Kyle) Shanahan. I’ll give you both options. Jimmy G, great huddle, great leader, leads the boys. People snap when he talks. He has a quick solution, he knows the offensive. Like I said, he’s been to two NFC championship games, knows what he’s doing. Trey Lance can run, extend plays, does all that game action stuff amazing, could throw the ball 70 yards. I dont know. It’s a toss up for me.
The 49ers have appeared in the NFC Championship Game with Garoppolo at the helm for two of the last three years and reached Super Bowl LIV in the 2019 season. San Francisco saw and took the opportunity to pick Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, giving up a significant amount of future draft capital.
It’s made clear what the future holds for San Francisco at the QB position, but Kittle says Garoppolo took it all in stride despite an awkward situation that could easily become dysfunctional.
“I mean, everyone can see it,” Kittle said. “When you trade three first-round draft picks for a quarterback, that has some kind of writing on the wall, doesn’t it? Jimmy has done nothing but be a pro every day. He never once complained about it. He wasn’t standing in a corner talking crap about the situation. He showed up every day as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He went out and exercised every day. He worked hard every day. He set a good example for all the young people, for all of us, and he motivated everyone. I don’t know if there’s a better professional in the NFL than Jimmy Garoppolo who handled this situation. I think he’s made everyone around him better this year. .. hey, you’re dealing with something nobody else here is dealing with and you’re amazing at it. I can get all my stuff done and move on and just go play football. It was great. The way he did it was great for us. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone but, hey, he’s done a lot with it and he pl at a high level.”
Garoppolo’s off-season shoulder surgery has seemingly complicated any potential trade, which was a joint effort after the 2021 season. 49ers general manager John Lynch recently said the team has no plans to cut the 30-year-old QB if a trade doesn’t go through. Should Garoppolo remain with the team at the start of training camp this summer, Kittle doesn’t see it as a distraction in the dressing room.
“I mean, we’re kind of used to it at this point,” Kittle said. “I mean, Jimmy G has been under scrutiny since the 2018 season when he tore his cruciate ligament. The whole season was like, ‘Oh, is Jimmy G the guy?’ Then he comes back, takes us to a Super Bowl, then we lose, and then the next offseason it’s like, ‘Oh, is Jimmy G that guy?’ We had another injury, 2020. It was a tough year for the Niners and then we came back and went to another NFC Championship game. We’ve been through this. It is what it is. I don’t think it’s really much of a distraction. I mean, I can’t tell if I’m in the building. I see the guys show up every day, run distances, we lift weights, go to meetings, and it’s not even really a topic of conversation. We’re all just trying to get better here, and whether that’s Jimmy G, whether it’s Trey Lance, whether it’s Nate Sudfeld, or our Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy. “
Kittle, who promoted the second annual Tight End University on Friday, has spoken a lot about Lance’s “insane cap” this offseason and the 22-year-old is expected to attend this year’s summit. While his argument for either QB leading the team this season is compelling, Kittle made it clear he totally agrees with whoever is throwing the ball at him in 2022.
“As long as they throw the football to me, that’s what it is,” Kittle said. “Football is a competitive sport. If there’s no competition, if you don’t fight for your starting job every day, then you don’t get any better. It was nice to see the two push each other throughout the year. I think Trey learned a lot from Jimmy. If Trey’s the starter and there’s growing pains, hey, so be it. I think we have enough good players around him to help him succeed from Trent Williams [Brandon] Aiyuk, hopefully to Deebo [Samuel], for me, our running game. I think we have a lot of players around him that help him to be successful.”