Kyle Shanahan backs Jimmy Garoppolo as San Francisco 49ers' starting QB

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Whether injured San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo plays again this season remains to be seen as he recovers from a high right ankle sprain.

But coach Kyle Shanahan indicated Tuesday, albeit with a dose of wiggle room, that whether it's this year or next, Garoppolo will be back under center at some point for the Niners.

"I expect Jimmy to be our starter next year," Shanahan said. "I expect him to come and play with us this year. We have six games left, we are not out of the playoffs yet. I have been on a team that was 3-6 going into a bye week that ended up winning their division. I think we have guys on this team that are capable of finishing this the right way. We've got to do it one game at a time, and I hope Jimmy can be a part of that.

"But to think that we've made any decisions on anybody going into the future isn't the case. Jimmy has won a lot of games for us. It's a lot harder to win games when he's not here. Just hoping we can get him back."

Including the playoffs, the 49ers are 24-9 with Garoppolo as the starting quarterback since he arrived in 2017. They're 5-23 in all other games without Garoppolo starting under Shanahan.

Garoppolo has suffered two sprains to his upper right ankle this season, injuries that have limited him to six games and landed him on injured reserve Nov. 3. The expected timetable for his recovery after the second of those sprains -- which happened on Nov. 1 against the Seattle Seahawks -- was about six weeks, which could allow him to return for a couple of games at the end of the season.

In the time since that diagnosis, Garoppolo sought multiple opinions on whether he would need to have surgery on the ankle. Surgery was not recommended and Garoppolo recently shed the orthopedic boot he'd been wearing since the injury.

None of that guarantees that Garoppolo will return this season, which will depend on how his injured ankle heals and whether the Niners (4-6) are in the postseason picture.

Nick Mullens has served as the starter in Garoppolo's stead, though the 49ers have lost three straight, beginning with that game in Seattle.

"I'm really holding out hope that Jimmy can get back and play some games with us," Shanahan said. "I'm hoping that we can change a little bit of our outcomes so when he does come back and hopefully a few other people, they're coming back for a reason."

Shanahan is even more hopeful about some of the short-term reinforcements the Niners have on the way. Following this week's bye, San Francisco could be welcoming back a handful of key pieces for the Nov. 29 game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Running backs Tevin Coleman (knee) and Raheem Mostert (ankle), receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring), cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (hamstring) are on track to return against the Rams, according to Shanahan.