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49ers drop hints toward Jimmy Garoppolo for season opener

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo couldn’t help but chuckle this week when asked if he knew who the Week 1 starter would be.

It was the first real indication of which quarterback would start from an otherwise closely tight secret.

Garoppolo said:

“Yeah, I have a pretty good idea. … It’s whatever [Kyle Shanahan] decides. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now and everything and just as the offense as a whole.”

Though no official word has come on who will start, it’s not surprising the team’s strategy is to keep opposing teams guessing as long as possible. Shanahan said being secretive about his starting quarterback gives a competitive advantage:

“What do you gain by naming [the starting quarterback]. … If there would be one reason I can think of by naming it that would help, it’d be to end those questions. If you could give me another reason that it’s a big advantage that helps our team, affects anything that has to do with us, then I will name it, but I don’t think it does.”

No decisions in the NFL are ever final until cleats hit the field, and even though signs point to Garoppolo, the preseason finale against Oakland will give the coaching staff more information on the final decision before heading to Detroit for the opener Sept. 12.

One way or another, Trey Lance will hit the field this Sunday against Las Vegas. Shanahan has special packages for Lance, but when and which situations are still unknown. The head coach couldn’t pass up the chance to use the third overall pick in specific packages:

“I knew that when you do get a quarterback who does have a different skill set than your starter, regardless of whether they’re ready to do a whole game or not. … You have to prepare for that stuff a lot. Other defenses can’t just go out and play against something that you haven’t been preparing against.”

Shanahan admitted switching between Garoppolo and Lance presents challenges for himself and the team, but he will continue to practice the dynamic more in the next week to get used to the flow. He reviewed the New Orleans Saints switch between Drew Brees and Taysom Hill as a model to follow.

Brees was in a similar situation when Hill would come in and take a snap or two before Brees would return and take over once again. Garoppolo received advice from the retired future Hall of Famer about the situation but would keep it to himself.

“It’s a thing that I wasn’t really used to, I guess you could say,” Garoppolo said. “Just the in and out part of it. So, I was trying to pick his brain, how he handled that.”

Garoppolo may have the job already, but he shouldn’t be too comfortable. Hill wasn’t viewed as a franchise quarterback; Lance is. The 49ers drafted the rookie to eventually take over for Garoppolo, and these packages might be a preview of what’s to come in the future.

But first comes a final tune up for the starters to get some playing time together, something they haven’t done much this preseason. Garoppolo said his goal is to build some momentum before Week 1:

“One, having all the guys out there will be really nice, getting into a little rhythm. … We haven’t had that in one of these games yet. So, getting into the rhythm, feeling everyone in the huddle, just seeing where everyone’s at with everything, how we move, the tempo in and out of the huddle, all those little things. That’s really what you look for in the dress rehearsal.”

Up Next

The 49ers play their final preseason game of 2021 Sunday, hosting the Las Vegas Raiders at 1 p.m. at Levi’s Stadium.

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