Sport Trey Lance's injury proves 49ers made NFL's best offseason 'move' with Jimmy Garoppolo

06:10  19 september  2022
06:10  19 september  2022 Source:   sportingnews.com

Where does the 49ers’ loss in Denver leave them? Exposed

  Where does the 49ers’ loss in Denver leave them? Exposed DENVER — Upon further review, all is not well. Seven days earlier, even amid the heartache provoked by quarterback Trey Lance’s season-ending ankle injury, there was a sense of optimism emanating from the San Francisco 49ers’ locker room. The unexpected return of Jimmy Garoppolo to a talented team with the league’s top-ranked defense made it feel as though the Niners could recapture the mojo they manufactured during the second half of the 2021 season, one emphatic victory at a time. On Sunday night, in front of a massive national-TV audience, and a stadium full of fans flustered by their own team’s offensive ineptitude, the 2022 Niners got exposed.

The 49ers lost promising second-year quarterback Trey Lance for the season to a fractured ankle in Sunday's eventual 27-7 home win over the Seahawks. But unlike most NFL teams that suffer that kind of injury, they could quickly pick up the pieces and go full speed ahead with their offense.

  Trey Lance's injury proves 49ers made NFL's best offseason 'move' with Jimmy Garoppolo © Provided by Sporting News

After it became apparent that coach Kyle Shanahan was rolling with Lance as his starting QB in 2022, there was speculation about what the 49ers would do with Jimmy Garoppolo. Turns doing nothing — except restructuring the final year of Garoppolo's contract for salary-cap relief — now means everything.

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The 49ers know they can get to the NFC championship and Super Bowl with Garoppolo instead of Lance — the evidence is two of the past three seasons. Although they will miss pushing their offensive ceiling a little higher with Lance's big arm and dynamic rushing ability, they will have little dropoff in offensive efficiency.

Garoppolo may have scared away trade suitors early in the preseason because of his offseason shoulder surgery. After a carousel of QBs moves that saw Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Baker Mayfield traded, the only viable landing spot for Garoppolo by the end of summer was Seattle. There was no way San Francisco wanted to facilitate its division rival getting a post-Wilson upgrade.

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Last week, when Dak Prescott went down for the Cowboys, Garoppolo was no longer in play to help another NFC contending team because of a mutual no-trade clause. The Cowboys did win their first game with Cooper Rush starting at QB, beating the Bengals on a walk-off field goal, but Dallas is bound to take its lumps on offense while Prescott is out.

The 49ers, meanwhile, hummed along without Lance, with tight end George Kittle missing his second game with an ankle injury, and with second-year running back Elijah Mitchell shelved by a knee injury.

It wasn't just Garoppolo subbing in; San Francisco went back to last year's formula of a fill-in backfield committee by incorporating Deebo Samuel. The 49ers got fellow wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk back more involved in the passing game. Ross Dwelley played a great Kittle proxy (which he has done before) with a 38-yard scoring strike from Garoppolo.

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Sunday was a reminder of how many games the 49ers will win just by dominating with their offensive line in the rushing attack and their Nick Bosa-led defensive front stuffing the run and getting edge pressure.

For good measure, Garoppolo made like Lance and ran for the game-sealing TD, albeit on a QB sneak. The 49ers have the scheme and support system to give any passer (or runner) a high floor. So while they can think of what could have been with Lance, they can wait until Year 3 knowing they will still win a ton of games and challenge for the conference title.

In this era of the passing boom, it's incredible for a team to be so quarterback-independent for offensive success. That said, the 49ers also knew a repeat of Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard starting a lot of games — in the form of Nate Sudfeld or Mr. Irrelevant rookie Brock Purdy this year — would have killed any hopes of winning big.

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The 49ers had a rare opportunity to keep a willing team-first backup and pending free agent with a lesser deal. That's a testament to Shanahan and general manager John Lynch making sure that Garoppolo still felt welcome despite his demotion and knowing he still could be valuable in case something happened to Lance.

Even if Lance had not gone down, the move was a smart one. Garoppolo was still around with his experience and locker-room presence to lift Lance and the offensive teammates who love Jimmy G. Bosa's eyes lighting up after Garoppolo scored confirmed that the Niners were immediately saved by one of their most respected leaders.

The 49ers may have had some accidental good fortune in being forced down the path of keeping Garoppolo. But in the end, Shanahan and Lynch's golden foresight turned out to be fortuitous and an amazing positive for the franchise after what could have been a devastating loss. Even with all those QB blockbuster moves, San Francisco's non-move is now the best move of the 2022 NFL offseason.

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