SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — The San Francisco 49ers failed to make it to the playoffs this season, which means its fanbase is looking towards draft day and fixing the issues that kept the team from the postseason.
So what‘s the team’s biggest need? Ask any dedicated fan or analyst and they’ll tell you quarterback play. While starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo still holds a winning record of 26-8 with the 49ers, he’s only been healthy for one full season out of the 3.5 seasons he’s been on the team. The team signed him to a five-year contract for $137.5 million, which is a lot of money on an already talented team.
Also, while Garoppolo is an old school, stand-in-the-pocket gunslinger like Tom Brady (who Garoppolo shadowed during his first two years in football while playing for the Patriots), the buzz word for NFL quarterbacks currently “mobile,” as demonstrated by high level QBs like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Kyler Murray.
Which is why when word of Houston Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s dissatisfaction with his team became public, 49ers fans began salivating.
— Javier Vega (@JavierVeg_) January 10, 2021
The 25-year-old, two-time Heisman-nominated quarterback is an elite player held back by a team struggling to make it past the first round of the playoffs since he was drafted in 2017. This past season was especially horrendous for the Texans, who finished the season 4-12 and who fired their longtime coach Bill O’Brien in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before being fired, O’Brien traded away Deandre Hopkins, the talented wide receiver, to the Arizona Cardinals, thereby taking away Watson’s best target.
Sources say that much of Watson’s problem with the team is about social justice issues.
Watson's unhappiness with Texans is not strongly connected to social justice issues, a source close to the quarterback clarifies, even though those issues are important.
His unhappiness is more current with state of franchise and what has transpired. https://t.co/wV4UDEIYzd
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 10, 2021
There’s a lot to like about Watson. He’s completed 70.2% of his NFL passes for 4,823 yards, he’s scored 33 touchdowns, and he leads the NFL in yards per attempt (8.9) and yards per completion (12.6). He can also make plays with his feet; he finished the 2020 season with 444 rushing yards.
The Texans have not shown any interest in trading away Watson as of this week, but if they did change their minds, it would probably cost the 49ers Garoppolo, and first round draft picks for the 2021 and 2022 drafts.
Legendary 49er wide receiver Jerry Rice said in an interview with 95.7 The Game on Tuesday that Watson would be worth the trade.
“Yeah, I think they should,” Rice said. “You’ve got to look at all your options, and you look at Deshaun Watson, and there are rumors that he might go to Miami, he might go to the Patriots, and also the 49ers.”
But there’s two factors holding back the trade. For one, rumor has it that Watson would rather go to the Miami Dolphins. Then there’s the fact that the Texans signed Watson to a new contract in January of 2020 worth $160 million ($111 million guaranteed).
It might not matter anyways. San Francisco Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch have already said they plan on keeping Garoppolo as their starting QB. But it sounds like they have their eyes on some of the fresh talent coming out of college this season, like BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. After seeing so many of his beautifully drawn up plays messed up by his backup quarterbacks this season, it’s clear Shanahan is prioritizing the position.
“You look into every avenue,” Shanahan said during a press conference in December. “You see if there’s something out there that can get you a ton better. It’s the same answer for every position.”