We're five weeks into the NFL season which, naturally, means fans are panicking and trying to find a way for their team to change course and make a playoff push.
Such is the case with the 49ers who were embarrassed by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Miami Dolphins 43-17 on Sunday at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers now are 2-3, in last place in the NFC West and have only defeated the New York Giants and New York Jets this season.
The 49ers have had a number of key players go down with injuries, but that's no excuse. From Week 1 on, the 49ers have looked like a shell of the 2019 team that ran through most of the NFL en route to a berth in Super Bowl LIV. January feels like 20 years ago, and Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have a decision to make at quarterback.
We know the 49ers flirted with the idea of bringing in Tom Brady in the offseason. They decided to pass and that decision continues to look worse and worse despite Brady's senior moment against the Chicago Bears.
The 49ers decided to stick with Jimmy Garoppolo. He came out and rewarded their faith by being atrocious in a Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. After carving up the Jets for a half, Garoppolo missed the next two games with a high ankle sprain. He came back Sunday and was missing throws left and right before being pulled at halftime.
So, where do the 49ers go from here? If Garoppolo isn't the guy (I'm not saying he's not, but if he's not), a former MVP who knows Shanahan's system quite well could be available.
Following an 0-5 start, the Atlanta Falcons fired head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff on Sunday, ushering in a new era for the Falcons.
Matt Ryan is 35 but he still has plenty of juice left in his right arm. With the Falcons likely pivoting toward a full rebuild, would the 49ers be interested in making a run at a guy who shredded the NFL four years ago in Shanahan's system?
If the 49ers genuinely feel they are a quarterback away from being back in Super Bowl contention, then it could make sense. This season, Ryan has thrown for 1,472 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 63.2 percent of his passes.
Yes, he's lost a bit, but he's still arguably one of the 10 or 11 best quarterbacks in the NFL. Garoppolo isn't on that level.
The catch, of course, is that Ryan comes with a massive price tag that would take some maneuvering for the 49ers to finagle a trade. Of course, the salary cap is almost entirely fake so if the 49ers -- more importantly if Shanahan -- wants Ryan they can make it work.
Now, Ryan is owed $23 million next season and the Falcons would incur a dead cap hit of ... drumroll, please ... $49.9 million if they were to trade him after the season. If they were to trade him before the Oct. 29 trade deadline, the Falcons would take a dead cap hit of $17.9 million this season and $44.4 million next season.
You probably look at that and think, well, that's never going to happen. But a dead cap hit is essentially money that's been paid out in a bonus or a restructure money that has been prorated out. The dead cap number is put in to protect a player's roster spot. But while the Falcons would owe Ryan that dead cap hit from his signing bonus and restructuring agreement, the quarterback's base salary of $23 million in 2021 would come off the Falcons' books.
So while it's a big number for the Falcons to stomach, if they are planning a full tear down and rebuild then it's not entirely out of the question.
From the 49ers' perspective, they currently have around $15 million in projected cap space in 2021 and would save about $22 million if they were to cut Garoppolo before June 1.
It's hard to see a way the 49ers make a Ryan trade work within the next couple weeks. They have less than $5 million in salary-cap space and would have to find a take for Garoppolo.
Garoppolo will be the 49ers' starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. It's all but a guarantee.
But Shanahan appears to be at the end of his rope with Garoppolo. He claimed he pulled the quarterback Sunday to protect his injured ankle. Maybe that's true, or maybe the frustration is mounting.
In 2016 with Shanahan, Ryan threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns while completing 69.9 percent of his passes en route to winning NFL MVP. At no point did Shanahan feel the need to take the ball out of Ryan's hands as he did with Garoppolo last postseason.
Ryan and Shanahan were an innovative duo, and the quarterback was one Shanahan clearly trusted. Perhaps Shanahan isn't a great quarterback developer. That's alright. You can be an offensive mastermind and not be Leonardi da Vinci when it comes to molding signal-callers.
Shanahan likes Garoppolo but there's a firm ceiling there. At 35 going on 36, Ryan should have two to three good years left. That's the 49ers' window with their current group.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank has said he hopes Ryan is apart of their future. But if it's time to tank for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the ATL, then Matt Ryan might be better suited finishing his career with Kyle Shanahan.
It's something the 49ers undoubtedly would consider if the option presented itself this offseason.