SANTA CLARA — Trey Lance refers to Jimmy Garoppolo as not only a “big brother” but, as he repeatedly said Thursday, “a resource.”
That makes sense. Garoppolo has been in the NFL since 2014, and he’s run the 49ers’ offense since December 2017.
Garoppolo is not Lance’s primary mentor, however. He may not even rank in the top five, even if he wanted to lead the charge.
Lance will be hearing advice from all corners as he succeeds Garoppolo as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
Coach Kyle Shanahan will be in Lance’s ear, literally in terms of relaying play calls and surely directing them after games and practices.
Inside the quarterbacks’ meeting room are three assistants: Brian Griese (QB coach), Bobby Slowik (passing game coordinator) and Klay Kubiak (assistants quarterbacks coach).
Of Garoppolo re-joining them, Lance said Thursday: “It makes the QB room that much better. Another great resource for me, a guy that’s played in this offense, a guy that’s done it, that’s played a lot of ball.”
But Garoppolo hasn’t played the way Lance is expected to juice up this offense, with zone-read runs and 40-yard ropes downfield. Garoppolo is not expected to commit all his time training his replacement, nor did he last year.
Advice could come from so many other voices, too. Maybe left tackle Trent Williams tells him where to safely follow, tight end George Kittle shares how to fire up the crew, or linebacker Fred Warner taunts where not to throw the ball.
Faithful fans and meanies in the media will have their say, too. Alumni such as Steve Young will be invaluable. Maybe Mike Shanahan ducks in with words of wisdom like in Garoppolo’s early years. Family and friends will offer their guidance, as will team chaplain, Pastor Earl Smith.
Garoppolo’s role? To maintain a starter’s mentality, or so goes the backup-quarterback cliché, which he admirably did not spew at Thursday’s lectern.
“Me and Trey, honestly, I know a lot of stuff gets made in the media and (stuff) like that, but we have a good relationship, man,” Garoppolo said. “Everyone can say what they want. But we went through it last year and it’s very similar to this situation. It’s not like we haven’t done it before.”
If Garoppolo high tails it via trade to a team that loses a quarterback to injury before the November trade deadline, Lance won’t be left in the lurch.
Lance said a collaborative effort exists throughout the team, that “it’s going to keep growing and I’m super excited for it.” He often referred this past year to Nate Sudfeld’s mentorship. Sudfeld spent most of last season on the practice squad, and he got cut Tuesday when the 49ers went with the backup brigade of Garoppolo and rookie Brock Purdy.
“My mindset is Jimmy is going to be a great resource for me as he has been since draft day,” Lance said. “We’re around each other a lot more, around each other in meetings, in the building, lifts, workouts, everything like that. We get to talk more ball.”
Garoppolo’s good-guy nature made him a captain the past three seasons, with his on-field leadership and adoration inside the locker room.
He did not return, however, to escort Lance into greatness. The 49ers’ allure, to Garoppolo, was “the opportunity to be with the same team, a team I’m familiar with, offense, coaches, players. All that played a big role. Seeing the other opportunities out there, you weigh the pros and cons of everything.”
It’s not a con to back up Lance instead of, say, Tua Tagovailoa, Marcus Mariota, Daniel Jones or Geno Smith.
“Trust me, there was a lot of back and forth going on just with other teams, and what I wanted my future to look like,” Garoppolo added. “This is what I wanted. I’m happy the way it worked out. The familiarity was a big part of it.”
He’s entering unfamiliar waters, however, in switching roles with Lance, who insisted their relationship and dynamic won’t change.
“He’s still going to be a huge resource for me,” Lance added. “I’m going to be able to bounce questions off him, watch tape of plays in practice. After each play, what did he see? The same thing I can do with Nate (Sudfeld), the same thing I can do with Brock, and all our QB coaches.”
Yes, Lance has a lot of resources to hear from in the months ahead. Things may not quite down until February, or in a few years, with or without Garoppolo in tow.
Contributed by local news sources