SANTA CLARA — Tuesday afternoon, the 49ers introduced their newest player, the man they hope will be their quarterback of the future — Jimmy Garoppolo. “Hope” is the operative word.
During his press conference, Garoppolo smiled, acted polite and said all the right things. Except the ultimate thing — that he wants to play for the 49ers in the long term. He is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, and the 49ers traded for him without signing him to a contract extension.
“I guess we’ll see what happens,” Garoppolo said. “I’m thrilled to be here. Just got here this morning. I couldn’t be happier, but we’ve got to take it week by week right now. I’ve got a whole playbook to learn. The terminology — it’s going to be like learning a different language. But I’m looking forward to the challenge and enjoying the process.”
When asked if he wants to stay with the 49ers past this season, Garoppolo wouldn’t answer.
“Oh man, I just got off the plane like an hour ago,” he said. “I haven’t even thought about that, to be honest. I’ll probably have a better answer for you in the future.”
On Garoppolo’s right on the stage sat general manager John Lynch, who sounded confident he can keep the quarterback around for the future. But Lynch gave no specific plan how he will do that.
“I just met Jimmy for the first time,” Lynch said. “There are a lot of options at our disposal. We’re just getting to know him. But I can tell you, second-round picks are very valuable in this league, particularly where we are at as an organization, so this is a guy we want and we’re willing to give what we thought was a very valuable commodity in exchange for him. We’re excited moving forward that he’s going to be part of our future.”
On Garoppolo’s left sat head coach Kyle Shanahan, who reiterated what Lynch said.
“We brought (Garoppolo) here because we want him to be the quarterback of the future. That’s up to Jimmy and how it works out here.”
Shanahan said he has coveted Garoppolo since he came out of college in 2014. That year, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.
“I really believe in him,” Shanahan said. “I put a lot of time into Jimmy throughout college. Got to study a lot of tape on him from Eastern Illinois. Got a chance to go down there and work him out when he was coming out. Got to go out to dinner with him. Felt very good about him coming out of college.
“Obviously didn’t get him when I was at Cleveland, but watching the time he has had in the NFL, his regular-season games and throughout the preseason, he has looked exactly like the player that we hoped he could be. Watching how he handles himself, how he carries himself, talking to people that have a lot of respect for him, what they say about him as a man, as a leader, he’s the exact type of guy that you’re looking for.”
What specifically does Shanahan like about the way Garoppolo plays?
“First of all, it starts with ability,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy has the ability to make plays with his legs, he’s a very good thrower and, most importantly to me, he hangs in that pocket, keeps his eyes downfield and is up for any challenge.”
Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers organization obviously are sold on Garoppolo, but they need to sell him on them. The rest of the season will be a tryout for the 49ers. Can they entice Garoppolo to stay?
This tryout may not involve much playing time for Garoppolo. It’s unclear when or if he will take the field this season.
“I don’t put everything into games,” Shanahan said. “You play 16 games a year, but you practice all the time. You can learn a lot from a guy in practice, too. Our goal here, we didn’t bring Jimmy here to just help us right now. We would love for him to help us right now, but this is more about the big picture, too.
“Throughout my whole career, it’s hard to come across opportunities to get guys that you believe have a chance to be your quarterback for a while. I think every team is looking for that, except for probably six teams. And when those opportunities come around if you think that’s the case, you don’t hesitate and you don’t look back.
“It’s not about looking into every other situation possible. That to me is leaving stuff up for hope and chance. When something comes across that’s available, which this did over the last few days, very recently, and it was to our surprise, once we did have an opportunity and you believe in someone like we do with Jimmy, that’s something that I would never hesitate on, never look back and never question the timing or the what-ifs.”