The San Francisco 49ers finished with a 2-14 record last season, the second worst record in the NFL. This season was looking rather similar in all the wrong ways as the team stood at 1-10 entering Week 13, and then Jimmy Garoppolo took over.
To say Garoppolo, the former New England Patriot, gives the 49ers some much-needed hope is quite the understatement, and here’s why: Garoppolo has led San Francisco (you know, a team that was 1-10 at one point during the 2017 NFL season) to four wins in a row.
It seems the 49ers have found their quarterback of the future, and it took one trade with New England to land him.
Just to show off how good Garoppolo has been with the 49ers, let’s turn to an ESPN article:
Well, yeah. Since he took over as the starter in Week 13, you can make a case that Garoppolo has been the best quarterback in football. He ranks among the league leaders over that time frame in both completion percentage (69.0 percent, fifth) and yards per attempt (8.7, third), and rates as the league leader in Total QBR (82.1), nearly 10 points ahead of Ben Roethlisberger in second place.
The 49ers haven’t been quite as productive on offense as those numbers would suggest by virtue of where Garoppolo has struggled. The red zone had been an issue for the 49ers in Jimmy G’s three starts before the Jacksonville tilt. The 49ers pushed the ball inside the 20 a whopping 13 times in three games and scored exactly three touchdowns, producing an average of 3.9 points per red zone possession. The Jets were the only team in the league to stay under four points per red zone trip last season. This is how your field goal kicker goes 15-for-15 over a three-week span.
For all it’s worth, Garoppolo has recorded 1,268 passing yards and five touchdown passes during his time with the 49ers, which has been over the course of five games. Not only has he managed to put up these types of numbers, and lead his team to victory, but he has done so with … well, what the 49ers have.
Think about who Garoppolo is doing this with, too. The 49ers are without Pierre Garcon, their presumed No. 1 receiver. Right tackle Trent Brown, one of the more underrated tackles in football, was struggling through a torn labrum before going on injured reserve on Dec. 15.
Garoppolo’s top receiver right now is Marquise Goodwin, who was the No. 3 target on the Bills last season. Rookie fifth-rounder Trent Taylor has emerged as a useful slot receiver. Garrett Celek, a rare holdover to the Jim Harbaugh days, has 160 yards and pair of touchdowns at tight end with Garoppolo in the lineup. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, signed to a much-derided deal this offseason, had 120 receiving yards in nine games before Garoppolo’s arrival and suddenly has 176 yards in four games with the new quarterback. Garoppolo is making these guys look like superstars.
Needless to say, what Garoppolo has done in his short time in San Francisco, well, it’s impressive. It’s not every season you see a team go from a 1-10 record to a 5-10 record. Winning four games in a row in general is quite the feat in the uber-competitive league that is the NFL.
More from the ESPN article mentioned above:
Everything is different now.
Before the Garoppolo trade, the 49ers were going to hit the 2018 offseason with a high draft pick and an outside shot at getting Kirk Cousins. The most plausible outcome was that they would draft one of this crop’s many quarterbacks in the top five and spend a year developing them before really expecting to compete in the 2019 season. Things might always break differently, of course, but that was the most likely path to contention for the 49ers.
Now, the path accelerates. Garoppolo has a limited team looking like a viable contender; even if they lose on Sunday, the 49ers will have gone 4-1 with a pair of victories over AFC playoff teams with Garoppolo at the helm. The glowing remarks about Garoppolo from the players he has gone up against or played alongside are going to get around. Free agents are going to want to play with Garoppolo in free agency. The days when the 49ers had to massively overpay to convince veteran free agents to come to San Francisco are probably over.
While, yes, San Francisco still has a long way to go before it can become a playoff contender again, and Garoppolo has yet to play a full NFL season with his new team, the 49ers have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. After all, quality quarterbacks tend to make all the difference in this sport, and teams can completely turn around in just one season.
Look no further than Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans to figure that one out, or the major turnaround the Jacksonville Jaguars have seen in just one year. To make a long story short, last season, the Jaguars were 3-13. This season, they are 10-5 and have clinched a spot in the playoffs.
One more point to note from ESPN’s article mentioned above:
It appears that 49ers general manager John Lynch may have accomplished one of the hardest things to do in sports: get one over on Bill Belichick. If Garoppolo is as good as he has looked in his first six starts as a pro in New England and San Francisco, the 49ers made out like bandits in acquiring the 26-year-old for a mere second-round pick. The entire trajectory of this franchise has been transformed in a matter of weeks.
While fans will have a much better idea of Garoppolo’s potential, and if he can continue to lead the 49ers to victory, next season, the way this team is ending the 2017 season has to have everyone involved ecstatic.
Time, as always, will tell, but Garoppolo seems to be the future of this franchise, and out of nowhere, he gives the 49ers some much-needed hope in a season that looked lost from Day 1, for the 49ers started the season with nine losses in a row.