49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo drawing on his own experience to help Trey Lance move from FCS to NFL
In the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers decided to solidify their future as a quarterback. After trading to third overall pick well before the draft, they used the selection to pick up a player with plenty of advantages: North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. The 20-year-old QB has a full year of starting experience at the FCS level and, while raw, the sky is the limit for him as he seeks to become a long-term starter. For the 49ers, he plans to eventually replace starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo, 29, spent three and a half seasons with the 49ers and posted a 22-8 record. He helped the team reach Super Bowl 2020 where they lost to the Chiefs, but he also struggled to stay healthy. Because of this, the 49ers decided they wanted to go in a different long-term direction at QB.
That said, Garoppolo will likely stick around and start this year as Lance grows to the NFL level. His main job will be to serve as a bridge to Lance, but he takes it upon himself to guide Lance as he moves from FCS to NFL like Garoppolo did in 2014.
“I try to use my own personal experiences and what I’ve been through, which has helped me, which has challenged me as a young player,” Garoppolo said on “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” show on ESPN Radio. “I’m going to use these tools that have helped me and try to help Trey. It’s hard to get into this league; I know how it went from FCS school to NFL. It’s a bit of an adjustment, the speed, whatever you want to call it, it’s just different. So whatever I can do to help her, I will be more than happy. “
In this regard, Garoppolo is the perfect mentor for Lance. He’s the only current starting quarterback to have played at an FCS school, so that once-in-a-lifetime experience of moving from FCS to NFL will be something Lance can tap into. This is also something Garoppolo did very well, as he was game ready earlier in his career than expected.
Of course, part of that was because Garoppolo spent his first two seasons learning behind Tom Brady. Jimmy G even credited his competition with Brady as something that helped him improve considerably in his early years and found success when he saw the pitch for the first time.
“The circle is complete,” Garoppolo said. “You go through that career in the NFL and you start out as a young man to come. Tom kind of showed me the ropes. The competition between us was great. It really made me grow as a rookie and as a young player. So, it’s kind of me and Trey, we’re going to shape our relationship into this. But it will happen naturally. It’s one of those things (where) you can’t force anything. Let him come as he can. “
It’s nice to see that Garoppolo is ready to help Lance’s mentor. He was clearly prepared for the 49ers to take on his eventual successor and he seems to be hopeful that the competition will help reinvigorate his career as well. While Garoppolo might not be long for San Francisco, especially with easy outs in his contract this year and next, he can certainly prove he’s still a quality quarterback.
And as we saw in Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, NFL teams are always ready to take on veteran bridge quarterbacks who are ready to serve as mentors. It’s part of what gave these two passersby longevity in the NFL. Garoppolo could be next in that mold – if he doesn’t immediately reappear as a solid starter.
We’ll soon see how the Garoppolo-Lance relationship plays out on the pitch, but given that Jimmy G is getting there as a willing mentor, the 49ers should have a strong and connected quarterback this season.