SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch sat down to offer opening comments at quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s introductory news conference, he stopped in his tracks.
Before Lynch was even settled in his seat, Garoppolo was already speaking, asking the local media how it was doing, thanking the Niners for bringing him to the Bay Area and offering gratitude to the New England Patriots for giving him his first chance in the NFL.
When Garoppolo’s remarks were done, Lynch smiled and tossed in his two cents.
“I think (coach) Kyle (Shanahan) will tell you a great quality in a quarterback is taking charge,” Lynch said, a smile creeping across his face. “I thought I was starting.”
And so began the relationship between the 49ers and Garoppolo, the player whom the team believes can be its long-term answer at the game’s most important position.
After the introductions, the attention turned to just how long the relationship is going to last. The Niners sent a second-round pick to the Patriots for Garoppolo because they viewed him as a solution for the present and the future.
But Garoppolo is set to be a free agent after this season and though the Niners have the franchise and transition tags at their disposal, neither side seems to be in a hurry to get a contract extension completed.
With Garoppolo’s representatives in the crowd, Lynch outlined the plan for dealing with Garoppolo’s future, citing that the first order of business is to get him in the playbook and to allow him to begin meeting his teammates.
“I can tell you, second-round picks are very valuable in this league, particularly where we are at as an organization,” Lynch said. “And so, this is a guy we wanted and were willing to give what we thought was a very valuable commodity and exchange for him. So, we’re excited moving forward that he’s going to be a part of our future.”
“We believe very much that Jimmy is going to be our quarterback of the future and we’ll let everything else play out from there.”
Garoppolo struck a similar tone when asked about his prospects for staying with the team beyond 2017.
“I guess we’ll see what happens, type of thing,” Garoppolo said. “You know, (I’m) thrilled to be here. I mean, just got here this morning. I couldn’t be happier. But you know, we’re just, got to take it week-by-week right now. I’ve got a whole playbook to learn. The terminology, I mean, it’s going to be like learning a different language. I’m looking forward to the challenge and enjoying the process.”
While the Niners and Garoppolo are preaching patience on the long term, they were more revealing when it came to what will happen in the near future. Shanahan confirmed that Garoppolo isn’t likely to play this week and didn’t want to put a specific target date on when Garoppolo could debut as a Niner.
With key offensive players like left tackle Joe Staley (eye) and receiver Pierre Garcon (neck) dealing with injuries and a complex offensive system to learn, Shanahan indicated they won’t rush Garoppolo into action.
“We’ll look at that week-to-week,” Shanahan said. “It’s a huge challenge. You know, Jimmy coming here, never playing in this offense before. I know it’s a completely different terminology from what he had in New England and college. That takes a lot of time. I know Jimmy is going to come in here and do everything he can to get ready. I know we are too, but by no means are we trying to rush the process.
“I would definitely not expect it this week. We’ll look at it each week and when we feel that he’s comfortable and has a chance to go in there and have some success, with the time he’s put in and the reps that he’s got in practice, then we’ll decide when that time is right.”
As for how the trade came together, Lynch said the Patriots and Niners agreed not to go into too much detail about the machinations behind it. Lynch did, however, acknowledge that the 49ers inquired about Garoppolo in the offseason and the Patriots quickly rebuffed them.
Despite that, Lynch said he and Shanahan continued to study quarterbacks who might be available in 2018, including Garoppolo, so when the opportunity to acquire him came, it wasn’t a tough decision.
“We thought about it for about 10 minutes and said this is too good of an opportunity to not take advantage of and so we jumped at it,” Lynch said.
Meanwhile, Garoppolo repeatedly emphasized his excitement to finally have a chance to start. While he said he never reached a breaking point with the Patriots, he did say that he was thrilled to get the call that he’d been traded on Monday night.
Soon after that call came, Garoppolo began receiving text messages and phone calls by the hundreds. Included in those reaching out was New England quarterback Tom Brady, who Garoppolo credited for helping him learn and answering any questions he had.
From there, Garoppolo packed as much as he could and got on a plane for the Bay Area on Tuesday morning. He arrived, took his physical and then met with the media. He even got a first look at his No. 10 jersey, a number vacated earlier in the day by receiver Kendrick Bourne, who switched to No. 84.
When the interviews and photo sessions were through, Garoppolo walked off to begin his new occupation as the Niners’ franchise quarterback, a promotion more than three and a half years in the making.
“I’m eager to get out there and show what I can do on Sundays,” Garoppolo said. “This league, it’s tough, it really is so when you get your opportunities, you have to take advantage of them because you don’t know when you’re going to get another.”