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The San Francisco 49ers leveraged their future to acquire Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft. But the second-year quarterback suffered a season-ending injury against the Seattle Seahawks. Backup quarterback Jimmy “Jimmy G” Garoppolo came off the bench to lead the 49ers to a 27-7 victory and their first win of the season.
In the offseason, Garoppolo was the subject of numerous trade rumors. He underwent surgery to repair a shoulder capsule injury and his recovery carried over into the preseason, which is why many teams were reluctant to secure him in a trade.
Garoppolo has one more year remaining on his contract, and the 49ers held on to the expensive backup as an insurance policy if Lance played poorly or struggled with injuries.
In his rookie season, Lance sprained his knee and fractured a finger on his throwing hand. Now, in just the second week of the new season, Garoppolo got called into action because of an unfortunate injury to Lance.
With Garoppolo expecting to start the rest of the season, the 49ers saw their Super Bowl LVII odds improve from +2200 to +2000 after their Week 2 victory.
Lance Out, Jimmy G In
Lance went down late in the first quarter during the 49ers’ second drive of the game with the team ahead, 3-0. Lance kept the ball on an option play and gained two yards before Cody Barton from the Seahawks tackled him.
Lance couldn’t get up from the pile and teammates frantically called for medical assistance. On replays, it looked like he dislocated his ankle. The 49ers’ medical staff carted him off the field. The team later confirmed Lance broke his right ankle and will undergo surgery.
Lance led the 49ers in rushing last week with 54 yards in a torrential downpour against the Chicago Bears. In Week 2 against the Seahawks, he rushed three times for 13 yards before his injury. He also completed two passes for 30 yards.
In a relief appearance, Garoppolo completed 13 of 21 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown in the comeback win. He added a rushing touchdown and five rushing yards.
It felt good to be back out there,” Garoppolo said in a post-game presser. “I felt terrible for Trey. I’ve been on that side in this league. It’s tough. Every person has their share of injuries. But that sucks for him and I feel bad for him, but he’s our brother and we’ll pick him up.”
“You feel for someone so bad,” head coach Kyle Shanahan told the media after the win. “It’s sad, but you don’t have time to sit there and think about it. You’ve got to get right back to the game, and the guys did a real good job of that. I’m really happy about the win, but it’s a little somber once you get in the locker room.”
— NFL Unlimited (@NFLUnlimited) September 18, 2022
Not Trading Garoppolo, Backup Insurance Pays Off
The NFL has always been a meat grinder and a war of attrition, and the brutality of the sport often meant that the healthiest team in the postseason won the Super Bowl. Now that the NFL extended its season to 17 games, backup quarterbacks play a more crucial role.
In the case of Garoppolo, he might have saved the 49ers’ season after the team incurred a massive setback by losing Lance for the rest of the year.
On one hand, Garoppolo went 32-14 as a starter with the 49ers and led them to berths in two NFC Championship games and a trip to Super Bowl LIV. Even so, the 49ers weren’t shy in the offseason about expressing their intentions to hand the team over to Lance, which left Garoppolo as the odd man out.
The 49ers traded multiple first-round draft picks to the Miami Dolphins in order to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft and select Lance from North Dakota State with the third-overall pick. Lance spent last season as a backup quarterback to Garoppolo, and this was supposed to be his first season as a full-time starter.
All signs pointed toward a Garoppolo departure. But the 49ers didn’t field much serious interest in a trade. The 30-year-old quarterback was fresh off an injury and due a hefty lump sum on the final year of his contract.
The 49ers hedged and retained Garoppolo. They renegotiated his contract, which got reduced from $24 million to $6.5 million (guaranteed). The contract included numerous incentive clauses, which could net Garoppolo close to $16.5 million if he starts the remaining 15 games.
In Week 2 of this season, Garoppolo banked $350K in bonuses, including $250K for taking more than 25% of the total offensive snaps, and another $100K for the victory.
It’s been a tough season for quarterbacks. In Week 1, the Dallas Cowboys lost Dak Prescott for six to eight weeks with a fracture on his throwing hand. On Thursday Night Football to start Week 2, Justin Herbert finished the game with an obvious rib injury.
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