National Football League

The NFL's most 'refreshing' trade & what it means for Jimmy Garoppolo

March 30

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist 

The San Francisco 49ers gave away a lot to draft higher but can’t be totally sure whom they’re drafting. They have a disgruntled quarterback whom they say they really want, but only for now. They are coming off a 6-10 season and should be better this time around, but, well, they should have been better last time, too.

Looked at one way, it could all come across as a bit of a mess. But don’t be so sure.

The more you look into what the 49ers are doing – with a detailed trade involving the Miami Dolphins, the Philadelphia Eagles and a bunch of future picks — the more it makes sense. In truth, it is somewhat refreshing, the way it removes much of the smoke-and-mirrors that typically surround so many QB/team relationships.

The 49ers have set their stall out. They are going to get a QB in the upcoming draft. They want that guy to be their leading light long into the future. For this season, they want Jimmy Garoppolo to take charge and spur the team to a campaign that looks more like their run to Super Bowl LIV than their more recent struggles.

The downside is the best place to start, given that this is the National Football League and you’re not a real fan if you don’t play armchair general manager from time to time.

The biggest knock on the move is that such dealings come with the inherent likelihood of annoying the current quarterback. Let’s remove the mystery there right away. Garoppolo’s feelings on the matter have already been confirmed. He doesn’t like it, but then again, who would?

"I’m sure Jimmy was a little pissed off from it," head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. "Like I’d be, too."

NFL teams spend a lot of time thinking about how to make sure their signal-caller is not peeved. That specific desire has a telling influence on so many of a team’s dealings, from trades to personnel hires to contract moves and much more.

But the 49ers are taking a different approach, and it has some logic behind it. Sure, Garoppolo is mad, but what does it really mean to have a QB who is angry? That he’s not going to try hard? That he’s guaranteed to play poorly? Perhaps quite the opposite.

There was a QB last season who might have gone into the campaign angrier with his organization than virtually every other player in the league. His name is Aaron Rodgers. He ended up winning the MVP.

"Shanahan and [GM John Lynch] know what they’re doing," former All-Pro Brandon Marshall said on FS1’s "First Things First." "Why wouldn’t you keep Jimmy G in for another year while you develop a Mac Jones?"

By cutting through the subterfuge, the 49ers are being fairer to Garoppolo than anyone is likely to give them credit for. Once they take Jones or Justin Fields or Zach Wilson, there will be no doubt as to where the franchise is planning to head and, truthfully, that they don’t see Garoppolo as their top guy in 2022 and beyond.

Two things result from that. Garoppolo now has all the motivation in the world to go out and prove them wrong, in the full knowledge that a strong season could have one of two effects – or maybe even both. The 49ers could change their mind, at least for another year. Or, more likely, a series of other teams could like what they see enough to come after him with open arms.

Garoppolo is slated to make $26.4 million this coming season and $27 million in 2022.

"Knowing Jimmy, he’ll be fired up to come in and work his butt off," Shanahan added. "The more mad Jimmy gets, usually the better he gets. This is going to be a good thing for Jimmy, too." 

San Francisco has some extra benefits in its newly engineered situation. The 49ers have gained a significant amount of control in what might go down on draft night. At the No. 12 slot, there were a ton of variables in what promises to be an unpredictable draft that is shaping up to be historically laden with early QB picks.

Given that the Jacksonville Jaguars have all but put up a Trevor Lawrence welcome billboard, the 49ers can operate with a degree of confidence that they’ll get whomever they have their eye on, which many believe is Jones, a Heisman finalist out of Alabama. Wilson, from BYU, is thought to be the New York Jets’ probable No. 2 pick.

A higher selection adds control, and control gives you the ability to cut through some of the pre-draft trickery. Thus, Shanahan made no secret of his upcoming trip to Fields’ pro day. His team is in the mix. 

The 49ers are swinging for the fences, and they’re letting everyone know it. The recent trade wasn’t made with the intention of being good. It was so that if the QB they choose is as accomplished as they think he is, they’ll soon be in contention for a championship.

"Shanahan and Lynch don’t always come off like high-stakes gamblers," The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami wrote. "But believe me, they are. It should not be shocking that they’ve bet the entire rest of their tenures on a single massive trade."

San Francisco is going for it. Garoppolo knows where he stands. Their incoming pick will know the team rated him high enough to maneuver into a blockbuster.

Through it all, the 49ers aren’t burdening themselves with egos and sensibilities. They’re trying to win.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.

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