(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the John Lynch interview, log on to the following attachment: Ep 30: Pro Football Hall of Famer John Lynch Joins | The Eye Test for Two | Spreaker)
If you believe today’s NFL scuttlebutt, the San Francisco 49ers are supposed to be one of those teams looking to change quarterbacks this offseason – moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo to … well, someone. The only question is: How much should we believe?
Good question. So we asked somebody who knows: 49ers’ GM John Lynch. We contacted him for the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast and asked how committed he and the 49ers are to Garoppolo. The answer? Very.
“If he is injury-free,” Lynch was asked, “is there any doubt in your mind that Jimmy Garoppolo is your quarterback when you line up in September?”
His response was immediate.
“No,” he said. “Not at all. I really believe that.”
Lynch’s response was not different from earlier comments, with the club pledging its “belief” in its quarterback. In fact, earlier in the broadcast, Lynch said the organization “very much believes in our quarterback.” But it’s one thing to believe in someone; another to indicate emphatically that he’s your starter for the coming season.
Lynch just did that. And for good reason.
Look how the 49ers behave when he’s in the lineup and when he’s not. They’re 24-9 (including the playoffs) and reached Super Bowl LIV when he starts. They’re 7-19 over the same period (following his Oct. 31, 2017 acquisition) when he’s on the roster and doesn’t.
Of course, that’s where much of the frustration lies. Garoppolo missed nearly half of his last 48 starts with San Francisco, sitting out 23 games the past three seasons with injuries. Nevertheless, Lynch stands by him, saying the team needs to find better ways to protect the position, not only with improvement in what’s in front of Garoppolo but in what’s behind.
The 49ers the past three years were 6-17 with backup quarterbacks C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.
“Being available is a big part of this thing,” Lynch acknowledged of Garoppolo. “So we … probably as a stated goal … we have to insulate ourselves better. We got to have better options if he’s not there.
“I’ve watched people go through this in their careers where they struggled early. It happened to me early, and then I went eight years without missing a practice. So I believe things can happen, and I believe they will for him. I really believe that Jimmy is our guy.”
The 49ers suffered an epidemic of injuries last season that sidelined players such as Garoppolo, defensive lineman Nick Bosa, cornerback Richard Sherman, tight end George Kittle, running back Raheem Mostert, wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, running back Tevin Coleman, center Weston Richburg and defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah.
In fact, at one time in early November, there were 22 players out – 12 on offense and 10 on defense. Result: One year following the Super Bowl, the 49ers sank to 6-10.
“I felt like going into last year we could put our roster up against anybody in football,” said Lynch. “I felt like there was quality. I felt like there was depth. We got ravaged by injuries. So what we’ve done is take a hard look at what we can do to control those injuries.
“A large part of it last year was that injuries were up league-wide. But we were at the top. I think we try to address those things in the way we operate. But we have to get better, as well.”
The key figure, of course, is Garoppolo. He plays the most important position and missed all but six games last season. He missed all but three in 2018, too. But in between, he started the entire 2019 season when the 49ers were 13-3 and went to the Super Bowl. And that is what has Lynch’s attention entering 2021.
“When he’s healthy,” he said of his quarterback, “he’s played at a high level. But we probably have to add someone. We probably need to improve ourselves, so if he’s not there we’re all right … we can win games.
“We are seriously looking forward to kind of rebooting our team and making a run at this thing next year. And I believe we’ve got what it takes to compete for a championship.”