Jimmy Garoppolo bids farewell to 49ers tenure: ‘Love you guys. See ya’
Jimmy Garoppolo’s final words as a 49er: “It’s been a hell of a ride, guys. And love you guys. So, see ya.”
Then, after those sincere and heartfelt words to the team’s fan base, he was gone.
At least, that finished his end-of-season Zoom interview with reporters.
Officially, his 49ers tenure is not quite done. A trade must be consummated, and Garoppolo expects progress on that in the coming days, having told general manager John Lynch on Monday he wants “to go to a place where they want to win.”
All love to the Faithful @JimmyG_10 pic.twitter.com/2BcHMmaFTQ
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) February 1, 2022
The 49ers were mired in an 0-8 start when they agreed to acquire Garoppolo on Oct. 30, 2017, surrendering only a second-round pick to the New England Patriots for Tom Brady’s backup. A month later, Garoppolo took over, went 5-0 as their December starter, and stoked a romance with the 49ers that only got jaded by injuries and two, lead-evaporating playoff losses.
Garoppolo, 34-16 overall as the 49ers’ starter, got sentimental on his way out the 49ers’ door.
About 10 months ago, the 49ers traded up to No. 3 in the draft, selected Trey Lance as his successor, and while Garoppolo said that gave him clarity to just focus on football, he made one last run for a Super Bowl, coming up short by virtue of Sunday’s 20-17 loss in the NFC Championship Game at the Los Angeles Rams.
“I knew this would happen eventually,” Garoppolo said. “You never can be totally prepared for moments like this. It’s weird. You make all these great relationships, then it comes to a halt. But that’s life. You have to enjoy the moment.”
This season “worked out pretty well,” he rated it. Before he soon visits a hand specialist in hopes of avoiding thumb surgery, Garoppolo battled through more than a camp competition with Lance. He overcame a calf injury at midseason, then pushed through a torn thumb ligament and shoulder sprain on the way to this past Sunday’s finish line, where a 10-point lead slipped through the 49ers’ grasp, similar to two years earlier in their Super Bowl collapse against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“The full four years, it’s crazy,” Garoppolo said. “I created a lot of friendships along the way. Since I’ve gotten here, it’s been about me wanting to leave the place better than when I got here.”
Shanahan and Lynch expressed their appreciation during a joint press conference preceding Garoppolo’s.
“Man, this was a ride that had so many different turns in it,” Lynch said. “It was special just to sit with and let him we know how appreciative we are as an organization how he handled everything, the way he played, the toughness he exhibited, and just express my admiration for him and the way he handled everything, this season and during his time with us.”
Both Lynch and Shanahan said they’ll be as straight forward with their communication on his future as it becomes clearer, in terms of his next stop. Shanahan left open the door to retaining Garoppolo on his final year of his contract ($24 million salary) but that is more or less a ploy for their trade market.
“I’ve got the ultimate respect for Jimmy and I’m very excited about Trey,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy made it a lot harder because he’s stayed healthy and he played like’s he’s capable, which is as one of the better quarterbacks in the league.”
Garoppolo chuckled upon hearing how Shanahan considered replacing him with Lance as the season lurched to a 2-4 then 3-5 start. Then came a Week 10 win over the Rams, and the 49ers won 9-of-11 to reach the NFC title game, including elimination thrillers in Los Angeles in the regular-season finale before playoff triumphs at Dallas and Green Bay.
“Each game carried significant weight to it. But it makes for an exciting year,” Garoppolo said.
Helping him get through that year were friends and his close-knit family. Parents Tony and Denise, along with his three brothers, often greeted him outside the locker room after games, as they’ve done throughout his 49ers tenure.
“When you’re put into a tough situation, you have to find a way to cope with it and talk it out. Having friends and family made it easier for me,” Garoppolo said. “They took so much off my plate away from football.
“Class and pride is something I try to live by. It will take you a long way and do good things for you.”
A day earlier, Lance thanked Garoppolo for teaching him much throughout the season, going so far as to say: “He’s going to be one of my best friends for my whole, entire life.”
During these past 10 months of mentorship, Garoppolo found himself in a reverse role from his 2014 rookie season on the Patriots and behind Brady, who announced his retirement Tuesday after 22 seasons and seven Super Bowl wins.
“First of all, congratulations to Tom. Incredible career. Best to ever do it. So happy for him,” Garoppolo said. “I’m grateful for everything I learned from Tom. There were times with me and Trey that it felt like me and Tom, and I would think to myself, ‘I used to be the young guy in this relationship here.’ And it’s just crazy how things come full circle like that.”
Garoppolo, 30, credited Lance, 21, for making their relationship amicable.
“It’s been fun with Trey. He’s a good dude, down to earth, normal dude,” Garoppolo said. “If he came and acted different, things could have been tough. But he was always a class act, always a cool dude, and he’s gonna have a bright future. I wish him nothing but the best going forward. I’m excited for him.”
Garoppolo did offer his heir apparent one last tip, to use his running ability in “the right way” and to not forget to slide.
That’s ironic in that Garoppolo’s first hiccup of his 49ers career came when he scrambled down the left sideline in Kansas City and tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, charging toward the end zone rather than safely scooting out of bounds.
Garoppolo didn’t close down his Zoom interview Tuesday before first thanking the media, and not just because he was awarded the Garry Niver Award (along with left tackle Trent Williams) for professionalism and cooperation with the Pro Football Writers of America’s local chapter.
“Before we end guys, a quick thank you to all you, the media. Since I got here, you guys have been awesome,” Garoppolo said. “There’s been some ups and downs between us but for the most part you’ve been awesome.
“You’re a good group to deal with, you’re very engaging and it’s fun to be around you guys, from Eric (Branch, of the San Francisco Chronicle) making jokes and everything in between, it’s been a fun ride and I appreciate you for that. I’ll miss you guys.
“Faithful, thank you for everything. It’s been crazy, man. Comebacks at Levi’s, comebacks on the road. Ups and downs. It’s been a hell of a ride, guys. And Iove you guys. So, see ya.”