The 2019 Comeback Player of the Year played six games in 2020 due to an ankle injury.
But the lengthy recovery period before the 2021 season had the 49ers optimistic about his return to form.
He proved that he’s still worthy of the starting role after completing 17 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown in their season-opening win against the Detroit Lions.
Jimmy Garoppolo takes the 49ers' first snap of 2021…and drops it.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) September 12, 2021
Garoppolo led the Niners to a second consecutive victory with 189 yards and a touchdown pass against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Week 3, the two-time Super Bowl champion held his ground against reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers.
He finished the game with 257 yards and two touchdowns for the Niners, but Rodgers had the last laugh.
The Green Bay Packers starting quarterback completed a 37-second drive that ended with a game-winning Mason Crosby field goal.
A week later, Garoppolo did not finish the game against the Seattle Seahawks.
No. 3 pick Trey Lance was shoved into service against the Seahawks because starter Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a calf injury. The rookie's shaky fill-in performance made this the most pressing question after the loss: When can Garoppolo return? https://t.co/Xe9m5IwEVq
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) October 3, 2021
It’s uncertain when the eight-year veteran strained his calf, but he gave way for rookie Trey Lance in the second half.
The Eastern Illinois alum exited with 14 completions for 165 yards and a touchdown.
In his absence, Lance threw two touchdown passes and added 41 rushing yards.
However, his effort was not enough to put San Francisco over Seattle, 28-21.
Coming into Week 5, head coach Kyle Shanahan is not yet ruling out Garoppolo from playing against the division rival Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers would love to be the team to end Arizona’s undefeated run, but they will have a hard time doing so without their starter.
Worse, the calf injury occurred on his right leg, wherein he suffered an ankle sprain a year ago.
Garoppolo Must Sit Down
The upcoming game against the Cardinals can be a turning point in several aspects.
First, the outcome of the game will indicate where they are as a team.
They have a shot of winning the NFC West if they defeat the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are now the only undefeated team left in the NFL 📈 pic.twitter.com/DaQte84lo1
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 5, 2021
In contrast, there are many adjustments needed if they lose to the NFL’s best team as of the moment.
Second, Garoppolo will find playing hard because it would be challenging to generate power on his passes if his throwing leg is unwell.
Bringing him back early may even aggravate the injury like what happened last year.
Therefore, they have no choice but to start Lance because he’s the best option left.
DEEBO IS WIDE OPEN.
Trey Lance finds him for the 76-yard TD! #FTTB
— NFL (@NFL) October 3, 2021
Likewise, the Niners must build from the momentum he gained in the second half of the Seahawks game.
Their offensive plan will change to cater to Lance’s mobility, and the Cardinals will adjust their coverage to be wary of his skill set.
There’s no sense in letting a hobbled Garoppolo play a meaningful game.
It would be better for him to stay on the sidelines until he reaches full recovery.
This swap at quarterback will also give the 49ers a chance to see what they have with Lance.
— 49ers & NFL News 24/7 (@49ersSportsTalk) October 7, 2021
Giving him more snaps provides them a bigger sample size of the nuances he has to correct.
But if the rookie does well against the Cardinals, there’s no pressure for Garoppolo to return.
The only pressure he will face is being a great mentor to his successor.