The San Francisco 49ers, despite injuries and a quarterback controversy, had a relatively successful 2021 season.
They started the playoffs with a win over their longtime rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, then followed it up with a gritty victory on the road against another historic rival, the Green Bay Packers.
Against yet another rival, the Los Angeles Rams, in the NFC Championship Game, San Fran blew a 10-point lead and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champs.
The Niners have one of the more talented teams on both sides of the ball, and the decision they make about who will start under center – Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance – will set the scene for what should be an interesting, and possibly a glorious 2022 campaign.
Here are three bold predictions that could play out in the coming months.
3. The 49ers Will Hold On To Garoppolo
Just days ago, it seemed that it was inevitable that Garoppolo would be wearing a new uniform for the coming season.
After lots of player movement resulted in teams that were looking for a new QB landing one, the market for Garoppolo could be about as barren as the drought that is currently affecting California.
To make matters more complicated, he recently had surgery on his right shoulder and will not be able to perform any football activities for a while, which seems like it would be a deterrent for potential suitors.
Another possible hold up is the Niners’ demands in terms of return value.
If they demand too much, especially considering that he has peaked and is injury-prone, they may just end up keeping him.
San Francisco 49ers were offered two 2nd rd picks for Jimmy Garoppolo, but have yet to pull the trigger.#Niners pic.twitter.com/zncPbFi55a
— NFL Trade News (@NFLTradeNews) March 23, 2022
Perhaps holding on to Garoppolo wouldn’t be the worst thing for San Francisco.
Perhaps Lance needs a little more seasoning before he can be a full-time starter, and Garoppolo isn’t a bad placeholder if that is the case.
2. Lance Will Become The Starter By Season’s End
If history is any guide, Garoppolo will likely suffer another injury this coming season, which would be the perfect opportunity for Lance to prove that he can and will become a superstar QB.
Garoppolo has played a full schedule only once, despite being the Niners’ starter under center for five seasons.
A San Francisco starting QB getting injured, only to be replaced by a younger, more dynamic one is something that certainly has precedent.
Nearly a decade ago, Alex Smith, who was certainly a decent signal-caller, suffered a concussion and was replaced in the middle of a contest against the St. Louis Rams by Colin Kaepernick, who had never started a game to that point.
When Kaepernick played well in the following game while Smith recovered, head coach Jim Harbaugh decided to stick with the former, and he led the Niners to a Super Bowl appearance just a couple of months later.
1. The 49ers Will Return To The NFC Championship
No matter who is under center, there is no denying the Niners are packed with talent.
They have versatile First-Team All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel, promising young running back Elijah Mitchell, star tight end George Kittle, and All-Pro offensive lineman Trent Williams.
On defense, they boast elite pass rusher Nick Bosa, and they just acquired Charvarius Ward, a cornerback who should improve their secondary.
#49ers new CB Charvarius Ward is a dawg in coverage 👀 pic.twitter.com/lAwQa9yi7X
— 𝙏𝙝𝙚𝙎𝙁𝙉𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 (@TheSFNiners_) March 15, 2022
Last season Charvarius Ward allowed 18 catches on 46 targets in man coverage, which was 2nd best in the NFL. 🤯 #49ers pic.twitter.com/0k5NSlbomE
— Coach Yac 🗣 (@Coach_Yac) March 15, 2022
In addition, most of those aforementioned players are young and may still have unfulfilled potential.
With Davante Adams, Amari Cooper, and Russell Wilson changing teams, the NFC won’t be quite as strong this coming season.
That could very well open up the floodgates for the Niners to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.