San Francisco 49ers: 2019 is a make or break season for Jimmy Garoppolo

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 10: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with general manager John Lynch after the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 10: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with general manager John Lynch after the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers enter the third year of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch’s tenure with the deepest roster in recent memory. Will it be enough to compete? The answer seems to fall on Jimmy Garoppolo’s shoulders.

It’s been quite a while since the San Francisco 49ers were relevant in discussing the NFL. Yes, they were a hot pick last year after closing out the 2017 season on a five-game winning streak with then recently-acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo under center.

But, I’ll remind you they finished the previous season 6-10. That six-win season remains the most wins since the 49ers finished 8-8 in Jim Harbaugh‘s final season.

Fans have seen three head coaching and one front-office search, but the drama behind the scenes has only distracted from consistently underwhelming performances on the field.

When 49ers CEO Jed York hired Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, he understood that the team was in disarray. It lacked talent at every position and while the team had plenty of cap space, they were more than a couple of additions away.

Now entering the third season of Shanahan’s reign, it’s time for that patience to pay dividends. Shanahan has been upfront about embracing the pressure this year.

While Shanahan and Lynch will obviously receive the brunt of criticism if the season goes south, no one is under more pressure than quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo, of course, was acquired from the New England Patriots for a future second-round pick as the 2017 NFL trade deadline approached. ‘Jimmy G’ had made his name backing up the legendary Tom Brady and had been presumed to be his long-term successor.

The move came as a shock to many around the league. New England had seemed committed to Garoppolo long-term and reportedly turned down better offers from the Cleveland Browns.

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In fact, months later reports emerged suggesting in-fighting between Patriots management, players, and coaches led to the move.

When Garoppolo first stepped onto the field in 2017, it garnered immediate success. With a full offseason to prepare for 2018, the 49ers looked primed for a postseason push. San Francisco invested in Garoppolo, signing him to a five-year, $137m contract extension.

Then Garoppolo tore his ACL in just the third game of the season. The 49ers struggled to the second-worst record in the NFL after the loss of Garoppolo.

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Still, the organization’s core talent began to emerge. George Kittle and DeForest Buckner asserted themselves as stars on each side of the ball. Rookie offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey looked like a long-term solution and free-agent addition Richard Sherman showed lockdown potential.

The team used the offseason to add multiple edge-rushers, selecting Nick Bosa with the second overall pick in the draft and trading another future second-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for Dee Ford.

On Day 2 of the draft, the 49ers added two more offensive weapons — Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd — to add to a deceptively deep wide-receiver core.

This is the deepest roster in San Francisco since the team last made the playoffs. They have an elite tight end in Kittle and have numerous weapons at receiver and in the backfield.

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Shanahan is one of the brightest offensive minds in the league and is giddy to unleash new offensive sets. The offensive line is thin, especially on the interior. But, there should be enough talent to maintain at least an average group.

Now the pressure is on Garoppolo to put together a full season. It’s not just his injury history or the pressure on Shanahan and Lynch to win soon, but his contract. After this season, the 49ers can release Garoppolo and take on just $4.2 million in dead money.

Normally, there would be questions about where the 49ers could find a replacement for their current QB. However, the next two NFL Drafts are projected to have two of the best quarterback classes in recent history, headlined by Tua Tagovailoa and generational-talent Trevor Lawrence.

San Francisco 49ers management will hope that Garoppolo can carry this roster to the playoffs and no one will question his place in their future. However, at this moment, the pressure is on Garoppolo.

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If he fails to deliver, he’ll be in an uncertain predicament going forward.