But enough about the past -- let's look ahead to the 2020 season. Because that's what matters here.
Tom Brady unequivocally gives the 49ers a greater chance to win the Super Bowl. It's not a debate. I know that Brady turns 43 in August. I don't care. He's a much better quarterback than Jimmy G right now, by any measuring stick that really matters -- and especially in the big-game department, which is pretty crucial to a Niners team that's squarely in its Super Bowl window.
Look, I'm a Jimmy G fan. I've given him his due and major props. I'm not telling the Niners to move on from Garoppolo haphazardly; I'm telling them to replace him with TOM FREAKING BRADY! It's the easiest decision you can make if you are Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and Jed York.
Yes, San Francisco won the NFC last year and was a quarter away from winning it all. Yes, the 28-year-old Garoppolo has many more seasons left in him than Brady. But if you haven't noticed, the NFL is a year-to-year league now more than ever. Long-term thinking is a luxury most organizations can't really enjoy -- particularly not if they're ring hunting.
Right now, on paper, before free agency and the draft, the 2020 49ers feel like an 11-5 team. But remember how last season played out for this team? Remember that Sunday night in Seattle, how the difference between San Francisco winning the division/nabbing the NFC's top seed and hitting the road on Wild Card Weekend as a No. 5 seed came down to what was essentially the final play of Week 17? A goal-line tackle was made. A bye was clinched. And the Niners parlayed home-field advantage into a trip to the Super Bowl. Don't get it twisted how close it was to going the other way.
The division and conference will be even tighter this year. A Jimmy G-led Niners team will have no guarantees or gimmes. On the quarterbacking front, the NFC West has a future Hall of Famer in Russell Wilson, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year in Kyler Murray and Jared Goff, who is on the same level as Garoppolo. The Seahawks will hit double-digit wins, the Rams are far from dead and the Cardinals will win games you don't expect them to win, because Murray has some magic. Big picture in the NFC, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan can absolutely make the playoffs. All those QBs against Jimmy G? Advantage: Opponent. And you know Shanahan loves his guy, Kirk Cousins, over in Minnesota. That was the original plan, in fact: For Little Shanny to bring Cousins to San Francisco in free agency. Heck, he even admitted as much during Super Bowl week, explaining that Cousins' impending free agency was part of the reason San Francisco passed on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft. Passing on Mahomes was obviously regrettable in hindsight. But passing on Brady in the here and now? Doesn't take much foresight to see how that would be regrettable.
I don't wanna hear that Brady doesn't fit Shanahan's system. Kyle is a genius. He will adjust and adapt. He gets the most out of every quarterback he works with, no matter the style, from Robert Griffin III to Jimmy Garoppolo. He called plays for Matt Ryan's MVP season. Heck, he made Matt Schaub a 4,770-yard Pro Bowler! And I'm guessing another former Shanahan pupil, Brian Hoyer, has raved about the coach to Brady, his ex-teammate in New England. What did Scott Pioli say about Kyle on my CBS Sports Network show, Time to Schein? That when it comes to football intelligence, Shanahan's the closest coach he's ever seen to ... Bill Belichick. Yup. That's a guy who Brady's worked with kinda closely, no? But Shanahan would have more of a human touch for the quarterback in his advanced age. And Kyle can find a younger QB to develop for a few years down the road. That's what he does!!
I don't want to hear that Brady didn't play well last year. The issues in New England included a lackluster line, Belichick never replacing Gronk and not employing a legit tight end, subpar receivers and a suspect run game that sorely missed injured FB James Develin. With the genius of Shanahan, the 49ers' line, a Gronk clone in George Kittle, a Pro Bowl fullback in Kyle Juszczyk and a young stud receiver in Deebo Samuel, Brady will thrive.
Jimmy G is super popular in the locker room. He works hard. Teammates love him. That said, I'm guessing they'd love being in a Super Bowl-winning locker room with Brady more.
San Francisco checks every box for Brady. He grew up in the Bay Area as a big Niners fan. He experienced "The Catch" live and in person! Gisele and Tom will be a short flight from Los Angeles for work and Tom's new production company -- and they will be right near Tom's parents. The Niners give him a better chance to win right now than the Patriots.
I think it's a very realistic possibility that Brady leaves New England. Noted Patriots insider Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston told me last week on my SiriusXM Radio show that he thinks it's 50-50 Brady departs. And I agreed with Curran when he called Tennessee the front-runner if the GOAT flies the coop. That's a nice fit, too. But Curran also added that the 49ers are "closing hard on the outside," a comment that dominated the news cycle last week.
The Niners can get out of the Jimmy G contract right now and only take a $4.2 million hit in dead cap. That's nothing.