Getty Images

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is becoming a free agent on March 16, and it seems very unlikely he returns to the 49ers next season. The organization seems to have accepted his potential departure, but legendary 49ers quarterback Joe Montana made it clear he thinks Garoppolo is still be the best option for the team's offense.

Trey Lance, Brock Purdy and Garoppolo all started games in 2022, a season in which San Francisco finished with a 13-4 regular-season record and reached the NFC Championship game. But in a recent episode of the "Open Mike" podcast, Montana said without hesitation that out of the three of them, Garoppolo would be his top choice.

"I start Jimmy," Montana said. "He has won a lot of games. I can't say the same for Trey. You don't know that from him. I don't think it's hard -- I think you just start Jimmy." 

Montana, who was inducted ino the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, is regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. However, San Francisco might not be taking the four-time Super Bowl champion's advice. His comment comes just a few days after 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during his team's end-of-year press conference that Lance and Purdy are the top two options at quarterback going into training camp. Shanahan also said that he doesn't "see any scenario" in which Garoppolo returns.

Lance was the initial starter in 2022 but suffered an ankle injury that ended his season early. Then Garoppolo broke his foot against the Miami Dolphins in December and missed the rest of the regular season, which led to Purdy taking over.

"He still won a lot of games before he got hurt, right?" Montana said of Garoppolo. "And so he put [Purdy] in that position to be able to go on that run, to begin with. So, you handed a guy a team, sort of like somebody else I know got handed a good team. You've got to go with the guy who's been winning the games and gets the offense and go from there."