San Francisco 49ers: No way Kyle Shanahan benches Jimmy Garoppolo for rest of 2017

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers were forced to put quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on the field against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12, and there’s no way head coach Kyle Shanahan can go back to C.J. Beathard now.

It took a knee injury suffered by quarterback C.J. Beathard, but the future is now for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo came on in relief of the injured Beathard late in the fourth quarter with the Niners trailing the visiting Seattle Seahawks 24-6 with under two minutes left in regulation.

And all Garoppolo did was move the ball forward on three consecutive plays, culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Louis Murphy:

The touchdown was essentially meaningless and had zero impact on the outcome of the game. Seattle had already put in a majority of backups.

And yet it was the perfect way to kick off the Garoppolo era in San Francisco.

Considering this, there’s no way head coach Kyle Shanahan can make the switch back to Beathard. Garoppolo needs to be the guy under center for the rest of the year.

Beathard certainly has taken his share of licks under center this season. No team has given up more QB hits than the 49ers this season (94), and the 13 hits Beathard suffered in Week 12 versus the Seahawks is indicative of the kind of year he’s having.

49ers Seahawks
SANTA CLARA, CA – NOVEMBER 26: C.J. Beathard #3 of the San Francisco 49ers gets sacked by Sheldon Richardson #91, Frank Clark #55 and Branden Jackson #67 of the Seattle Seahawks during their NFL football game at Levis Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

But Beathard doesn’t have good pocket awareness. Garoppolo sure seems to. Just watch him sidestep the pass rush in the above video.

So if Shanahan is serious about evaluating what Garoppolo can do over the remaining stretch of 2017, he needs to keep the quarterback in a starting role.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo a Small Change with Big Dividends for 49ers

The 49ers have suffered poor quarterbacking all season. Sure, he’s tough. But Beathard’s completion percentage (54.9) ranks 33rd in the league, while his 69.2 passer rating ranks 34th.

And this was the guy who beat out former Niners QB Brian Hoyer.

Yes, Beathard would perform better with a more-talented supporting cast. But he’s not the kind of player capable of making the best out of what surrounds him. To be fair, that’s not what’s asked of him anyway.

Week 12 was a close game for three quarters, as the 49ers trailed 14-6 entering the final frame. One can only think what the difference would be if Garoppolo came in earlier.

Seahawks EDGE Michael Bennett thought of it, saying such via Jane McCauley of the Associated Press:

"You see automatically that spark [Garoppolo] gave. You play behind Tom Brady you start picking up knowledge of the game because you’re talking to Tom, he’s showing you so many different things and so I feel like he’s poised to be a great player in this league.Like I told him, I look forward to playing against him next season. I’m glad they didn’t put him in earlier."

If Shanahan had put Garoppolo in earlier, and all other things remained equal, perhaps the Niners pick up win No. 2 and end their elongated losing streak to Seattle.

Protecting Investments, Contracts and Tanking

OK, so perhaps Shanahan wants to protect his team’s most recent big investment. The 49ers offensive line is terrible and there aren’t enough receiving weapons. Putting Garoppolo into a situation where he suffers a serious injury would be a disaster.

But the Niners have to see what their new prized possession has, especially in the current context. This will go a long way in determining contract talks this offseason or if San Francisco should use the effective-yet-unpopular franchise tag.

And then, of course, there’s the talk of tanking for a higher pick in the NFL Draft. If you’re of the mindset Beathard gives the 49ers a better chance to lose, thus cementing a higher selection, it’s time to bring the bigger picture into focus.

The Niners (1-10), Cleveland Browns (0-11) and New York Giants (2-9) are the only teams realistically competing for a No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. There are a few three- and four-win teams out there that make the order somewhat interesting. But the reality is the Niners still likely wind up with one of the first three selections.

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That’s not bad for a rebuild. Not bad at all. And considering San Francisco has, what, one or two more winnable games remaining on its schedule?

What’s more important here isn’t the draft order. Rather it’s seeing what Garoppolo is worth in real time and in a situation where the talent surrounding him is less than adequate. It would help prove whether or not he can be a difference maker.

Next: 49ers stock report after Week 12 loss to Seahawks

And that’s why Shanahan needs to keep him in a starter’s role for the rest of 2017.