Thursday, May 19

Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers relies on his own experience to help Trey Lance make the leap from FCS to NFL

During the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers made a move to solidify their future at the quarterback position. After shifting to the No. 3 overall pick long before the draft, they used the pick to pick a player with many advantages: North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. The 20-year-old quarterback has a full year of starting experience at the FCS level, and while it’s raw, the sky’s the limit for him as he looks to become a long-term starter. For the 49ers, he thinks he will eventually replace starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo, 29, has spent three and a half seasons with the 49ers and has posted a 22-8 record. He helped the team get to the 2020 Super Bowl where they lost to the Chiefs, but he’s also struggled to stay healthy. So the 49ers decided they wanted to go in a different direction long-term at QB.

That said, Garoppolo will likely stick around and start this year as Lance develops at the NFL level. His main task will be to serve as a bridge to Lance, but he is taking it upon himself to mentor Lance as he makes the leap from the FCS to the NFL as Garoppolo did in 2014.

“I try to use my own personal experiences and what I went through, what helped me, what challenged me as a young player,” Garoppolo said in the show “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” on ESPN Radio. “I’m going to use those tools that helped me and I’m going to try to help Trey. It’s hard to get into this league; I know what it was like to go from an FCS school to the NFL. It’s a little adjustment, speed, whatever you want to call it, it’s different. So whatever I can do to help him, I’ll be more than happy. “

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In that sense, Garoppolo is the perfect mentor for Lance. He is the only current starting quarterback to play at an FCS school, so the unique experience of moving from the FCS to the NFL will be something Lance can build on. It’s also something Garoppolo did very well, as he was ready to play earlier than most expected.

Of course, part of that was thanks to the fact that Garoppolo spent his first few seasons learning behind Tom Brady. Jimmy G even credited Brady with his competence as something that helped him improve a lot in his early years and allowed him to find success when he first saw the field.

“It’s getting full circle,” Garoppolo said. “You go through this NFL career and you start out as a young man coming in. Tom showed me the ropes. The competition between us was incredible. It really made me grow as a rookie and as a young player. So that’s kind of what me and Trey, we’ll mold our relationship around that. But it will happen naturally. It’s one of those things (where) you can’t force anything. Just let it go whatever. “

It’s good to see that Garoppolo is willing to help Lance’s mentor. He was clearly poised for the 49ers to take over his eventual successor and seems to be hopeful that the competition will help reinvigorate his career as well. While Garoppolo may not be long in San Francisco, especially with easy outs in his contract this year and next, he can certainly show that he is still a quality starting quarterback.

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And as we’ve seen from Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, NFL teams are always willing to take on veteran bridge quarterbacks who are willing to serve as mentors. That’s part of what gave those two quarterbacks longevity in the NFL. Garoppolo could be next in that mold, if he doesn’t immediately resurface as a solid starter.

We’ll see the Garoppolo-Lance relationship unfold on the field soon, but with Jimmy G coming into it as a willing mentor, the 49ers should have a strong and connected quarterback this season.

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