John Lynch Backs Healthy Jimmy Garoppolo as 49ers' Starting QB for 2021 Season

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIFebruary 24, 2021

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020 file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game in Seattle. Jimmy Garoppolo isn't expected to take another snap this season for the San Francisco 49ers as a pair of high ankle sprains derailed most of his campaign.(AP Photo/Scott Eklund, File)
Scott Eklund/Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch is preparing to enter the 2021 season with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, assuming the 29-year-old is healthy. 

Speaking to Clark Judge and Ira Kaufman on The Eye Test for Two podcast, Lynch said (around the 18-minute mark) that he expects Garoppolo to lead the team after an injury-plagued 2020 in which he played just six games with 1,096 passing yards, seven touchdowns, five interceptions and a 92.4 passer rating. 

The Niners are significantly better with Garoppolo on the field, as their 26-9 record with him as quarterback proves, but there are some major caveats there. 

Garoppolo has played a 16-game season just once in three full seasons with San Francisco. The other two years saw him play three games in 2018 and six games last season. His backups left plenty to be desired, with C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens going 7-21 in games they've started with Garoppolo sidelined. 

Yet Lynch doesn't want to put the "injury-prone" label on his franchise quarterback. He told the podcast the version of Garoppolo who led the Niners to the Super Bowl in 2019 while remaining healthy can still become the standard.

"I've watched people go through this in their careers where they struggled early," Lynch said (around the 28-minute mark). "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."

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That doesn't mean there won't be pressure to find the guy behind the guy. 

Beathard is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and Mullens is a restricted free agent. Given San Francisco's salary-cap crunch, keeping both may not be an option. As much as Lynch is banking on Garoppolo moving past the ankle sprains that hampered him last season, the Niners can't be put in a position where they struggle to win because of one missing player on the field.

Finding a suitable backup remains a massive hurdle. 

"When he's healthy, he's played at a high level," Lynch said around the 18-minute mark. "But we probably have to add someone. We probably need to improve ourselves, so if he's not there, we're all right."