By Nick Shook
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Acquiring a potential franchise quarterback will put any fanbase into a frenzy.
But hold your roars: The latest deal for such player might not actually put him on the field for a while.
That’s the word from San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who met with reporters Wednesday to discuss the franchise’s acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo via trade with the New England Patriots.
“I can’t promise you guys that he’ll play this year,” Shanahan said of Garoppolo on Wednesday. “I know that we have a guy that we’re excited about, and I know has the ability to help us and help this team in the future. That’s what I mean by ‘well we didn’t do this just to save this year.’
“We did this because we feel this will improve our team and our organization.”
As a writer who has seen many franchises botch similar situations from the jump, this cautious approach is incredibly encouraging — but it won’t produce wins this season. Then again, for the 0-8 Niners, wins and losses don’t matter at this point. In fact, they’d be better served to ease Garoppolo into the organization, which will include Garoppolo learning a completely new system.
“I’m not going to put someone out there who I don’t think has the chance to be successful, and that starts with the playbook,” Shanahan said. “That starts with understanding the plays that you’re calling. How to communicate it with the other 10 guys — to know actually where people are when you say it. And not many people can understand that or should. Just like I can’t understand much outside of what I’m talking about right now. But it’s tough — it’s tougher than people realize.”
In the big picture, this is perhaps the best situation for which Garoppolo could have asked. The immediate pressure is all but removed, he’ll get time to learn, and he’ll also avoid injury by not playing behind what is a banged-up offensive line.
This also protects San Francisco’s investment, at least partially. The second-round pick got him in the building and on the roster, but they’ll have to shell out some big money this offseason in a long-term contract — you don’t trade a second-rounder to franchise tag the guy you get in return — to keep him beyond 2017, based on his expected market value. They’ll be going into such negotiations partially blind, with nothing but practice reps for proof of his ability, unless they play him later this season.
When this trade went down, I wrote that the Niners probably wouldn’t play him immediately. It’s almost inconceivable to rush a guy onto the field that quickly in the middle of the season (unless you’re Sam Bradford in 2016 with the Vikings). Deep down, I wondered if they’d play him at all, but considered the fanbase which Shanahan and Co. would have to appease. Now, it seems as though they aren’t worried about that. They’re keeping their collective focus on the bigger picture. In a society increasingly motivated largely by instant gratification, that should be commended.
We still have very little actual knowledge of how good of a quarterback Garoppolo is. A lot of that will depend upon the situation in which he’s placed. At least right now, San Francisco isn’t hurting his chances by rushing him onto the field.