The J. Richard Garoppolo saga, a tale of breathtaking hamster-on-wheel action told in nine parts over five years, took its goofiest spin yet Monday with the one result that hadn’t been considered at all until it emerged fully formed with a kazoo-and-tuba fanfare.
Garoppolo is staying with the San Francisco 49ers for another year, and the team isn’t having to honor his old albatross-y contract in convincing him to do so. For the same price as it would have taken merely to cut him and send him off to Uncle Billy’s farm or, if you wish, the Seattle Seahawks, they got the quarterback who had been integral to a Super Bowl combatant and contender, and they got him to be satisfied as a first backup to the guy who took his job without a fight. Kyle Shanahan, who either has pictures of everyone doing everything to anything or simply can talk them all into thinking he does, has also:
- Apparently convinced Trey Lance that the man he understudied last year can hang around without causing any emotional mischief;
- Convinced Garoppolo that supportive backup work in opposition to his self-interest can be fulfilling because hey, merde happens;
- Convinced the rest of the players, coaches, and staff that they will be cool with all of it, whatever “it” turns out to be, and;
- Maybe even convinced himself that somehow this will all work out fine in the end despite his decision to cheat fate so brazenly.
This clearly is a man who could sell Ron DeSantis to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
Shanahan is already the guy who convinced Deebo Samuel that running the ball several times a game actually isn’t unhealthy after all. He is the guy who hired John Lynch to be the general manager of the team he coached while still holding all the power in the building. He is the guy who has convinced most football people that he is a genius while compiling essentially the same career winning percentage as Norv Turner and Rex Ryan. He is the guy who runs when others would pass, and is considered an offensive mastermind by building a great defense. He is Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles and the world is the villagers of Rock Ridge.
But the Garoppolo thing may ultimately be his masterpiece, whether it results in a parade or a sitcom, because no matter what happens, he has convinced all the other principals that something that doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s best interest is absolutely in everyone’s best interest—or, as it is more accurately described, HIS best interest. And somehow, it does have a certain bastardy logic to it.
I mean, we have here a coach whose quarterback is one overthrown ball from winning one Super Bowl and a dropped interception from reaching a second, and yet is willing to overthrow him for someone whose college and professional resumes can be written on prosciutto. That takes some serious hit-on-18-and-order-drinks-for-the-table stones right there.
Then he tries to trade Quarterback No. 1, or at least wait until someone is desperate enough to come to him to discuss a trade, and when that doesn’t happen speaks openly of cutting him without Quarterback No. 1 acting out, and when that looks like the only play, he makes a totally counterintuitive one, potentially upsetting Quarterback No. 2 just because he can’t quit Quarterback No. 1.
Now in a world in which Shanahan gets everything he’s ever wanted, this arse-first strategy all works out brilliantly with either Lance or Garoppolo nudging the boys to a 14-3 record and a skate through the conference playoffs. In the world coated in schadenfreude and rotten fruit in which most of us live, Lance struggles and/or blows a tire, Garoppolo fails as his replacement, Lance returns with his confidence in tatters, the 49ers end up 6-11 and … well, let’s just put it this way: Shanahan morphs into Wile E. Coyote standing off the edge of a cliff with a handheld “YIPE!” sign, and the world laughs at him rather than in fear of him. Yeah, that could work for us, too.
Oh, there is one other way it can turn to vomit—if everything works out great for everyone involved but they lose in the Super Bowl to the New York Jets and their starting quarterback, Nate Sudfeld. Now THAT would be epic.
But at this point, we are already eyelids-deep in improbability as it is, so what’s so unreal about that scenario? All we really know right now is this: Kyle Shanahan is making reality fold quad aces. While this can all still go to shit because football hates us all and then tears both our ACLs on its way out the door, one can see in such an eventuality Kyle Shanahan just shrugging his shoulders, readjusting his sorcerer’s turban, and moving on to his next con, and his next set of victims. Just be thankful he isn’t in politics.