The 49ers stunned the football world by sending a haul of draft picks to the Miami Dolphins for the third-overall pick in next month’s draft, a move most believe will lead to San Francisco selecting a new franchise quarterback.
With Jimmy Garoppolo still in town and remaining as the team’s starter, that could create an awkward situation for those closely involved — namely, George Kittle, San Francisco’s top pass-catcher who might have to adjust to receiving targets from someone other than the man wearing No. 10.
Kittle was honest in his reaction and assessment of the situation during a recent appearance on 10 Questions with Kyle Brandt, pointing to a strong track record assembled by coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch as a legitimate reason to not worry about San Francisco’s future.
“I trust in Kyle and John,” Kittle told Brandt. “They’re trying to do whatever they can to make the team better, so whether that’s competition, it is what it is. I don’t really have a say in it. I’m just gonna show up. I’m gonna try to do my job to the best of my ability and support whoever’s on my team.
“I get it, it’s a competitive sport and you’re competing for jobs every single day. You know, I want Jimmy G to be my quarterback. That’s what camp and OTAs and competition’s for. Whatever they do, I can’t wait to see what the team looks like in a couple weeks.”
The 49ers have a roster that’s ready to win now, provided it’s generally healthy. In 2020, that wasn’t the case, as the injury bug bit them harder than any other team, a fate that again included Garoppolo.
With Garoppolo’s unreliable health history considered and San Francisco operating with full awareness of its capability as constructed, the move up to No. 3, while shocking, wasn’t illogical. What better way to protect against another Garoppolo injury than to draft an ideal successor?
In the meantime, though, the 49ers appear to be lining up to have a team with Garoppolo existing as something of a lame-duck starter, while the new addition — whomever it ends up being — sits behind him in a new-age version of the Joe Montana/Steve Young conundrum of decades past. Any competitor will admit he doesn’t want to be the understudy.
But for the 49ers, trading up to take a talented signal-caller is simply a smart business decision. After floating in the abyss of a Nick Mullens/C.J. Beathard reality, San Francisco can’t afford to be caught without a legitimate option behind Garoppolo.
While it might make for an awkward situation in the short term, such a move would set up the 49ers for sustained success that isn’t largely dependent on the availability of Garoppolo. It can also help the 49ers become stronger elsewhere if San Francisco ends up deciding it wants to trade Garoppolo, a possibility that isn’t yet a reality.
What is more likely as of now is Kittle arriving to minicamp with a new quarterback to get to know. And while that new passer might not end up running with the first team this spring and summer, Kittle’s going to have to build a relationship, because a succession plan and its eventual execution will be inevitable.
All Kittle can do is prepare the same way, regardless of who is throwing him passes. After his own injury-riddled season, Kittle has his own point to prove. And he just might end up proving it with a new face leading his huddle.
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