The Jimmy Garoppolo Era Has Begun In San Francisco‚Äč, by Chuck Strom

The most unbelievable part of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s fledgling career in San Francisco is that it happened at all. In any other league, a player of such other-worldly talent would never have been traded for anything less than a king’s ransom, and yet the New England Patriots let the 49ers have him for a 2018 second-round draft choice–basically a bag of balls. Nobody would otherwise accuse Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his front office of incompetence, and the trade made sense in the short term, with Garoppolo heading for free agency next year and Patriot quarterback Tom Brady backing up, for the moment at least, his stated intention to play until he’s forty-five. Nevertheless, losing Garoppolo has to be a bitter pill for Belichick to swallow, knowing that his best chance to extend his dynasty for a third decade just left the building.

Only slightly more believable is the immediacy and extent of Garoppolo’s impact on the 49ers. Not only has Garoppolo won his first three starts, but he has taken what had been the NFL’s most abysmal and unspeakably boring offense, with the possible exception of Cleveland, and turned it into a dangerous quick-strike unit. Big, strong, decisive and elusive in the pocket, Garoppolo makes finding an open man downfield look easy, and so far he has piled up completions and passing yards at a rate far beyond what even his hallowed predecessors Joe Montana and Steve Young achieved at the start of their careers–you can look it up. If the last month is any indication, we may well see someday in the 49er sculpture museum the likenesses of Garappolo and coach Kyle Shanahan to go with those of Montana and Bill Walsh. This may sound like so much hyperbole, but having watched the before-and-after versions of these 49ers, I assure you that I am not exaggerating.

The one weakness of the Garappolo 49ers has been their difficulty in finding the end zone despite many trips inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Robbie Gould, recently cut by the Chicago Bears, has done what he could to mitigate the problem, including six field goals in today’s win over the Tennessee Titans, but it is clear that Shanahan and Garoppolo have some work to do in this regard if the 49ers are to rejoin the NFL’s elite. It seems likely, given what they have achieved so far, that they will figure it out, and while this season may be a lost cause except for reducing the value of the draft choice traded to the Patriots, the future is bright for the Red and Gold for the first time since their move four seasons ago to the South Bay.

Chuck Strom

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