Today, Niner Noise will take a close look at Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears and what new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo brought to the table in his first start for the San Francisco 49ers.
Two months ago in October, the 49ers Faithful were still pondering Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard for the starting quarterback position.
And we all basically said, “Put in the rookie and let us see what he can do.”
This was after Hoyer had showed a few moments of promise, but overall, had seemed to play scared, and struggled to maintain any pocket presence through the first half of the season.
San Francisco 49ers
Surprise-late third-round rookie Beathard stepped in and proved he was a worthwhile investment, with fearless and tough play through several weeks, growing with the team and earning respect from his teammates. He also showed a great deal of promise, just in development, from his senior year in college at Iowa.
Beathard’s teammates played for him and reciprocated his leadership, while he proved he could play with, and better than, many of the big-name QB’s from his NFL Draft class. Beathard was holding his own, for a quarterback many had projected in the sixth or seventh rounds of the draft, and played with a demeanor that was absolutely necessary for the Niners offense. His passing was above average and his comprehension of the offense was growing quickly.
In comparison to Hoyer, Beathard displayed more acumen to the offense overall, with his ability to read the field and maintain his reads to the last possible moment.
Enter Jimmy Garoppolo, a quarterback who was sitting behind one of the greats, New England Patriots’ future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady, for the last four years, while only starting two games over that stretch. Garoppolo sat on top of the trade block last offseason with a likely first-round-plus pick value.
Nobody can say for certain who offered what, and if the Patriots actually fielded any offers, but Garoppolo was not moved until just prior to the NFL trade deadline to the Niners.
The 49ers made the deal for a second rounder in next year’s draft, and when put into perspective with San Francisco’s 2017 draft, you can see some decent “swerve” in the play of the front office.
San Francisco played the Chicago Bears last Sunday, and it was much more than a simple contest between two rebuilding teams.
The game was an example of an aggressive front office versus a patient front office that is assured of time. The Bears moved up one single spot the last draft, and gave the 49ers a third- and a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, plus a third next year to make the first-round swap, in which the 49ers parlayed into the players they were originally targeting.
San Francisco made the trade with New England a few months later and landed a QB who showed more exponential worth than Chicago’s top draft pick, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, for half of what was asked just a few months ago.
The things that stood out with Garoppolo versus Trubisky, or even Beathard and Hoyer, were more than evident.
I wrote an in-depth analysis of what to expect from Garoppolo a few weeks back, right after the trade was announced, that you can read here. Basically, the “Jimmy G” skill analysis in the story talked extensively about his ability to hit tight windows over the middle, while maintaining an excellent pocket presence and sense of pressure.
What we saw Sunday against the Bears was an absolute testament to what we can expect from Garoppolo’s greatest strengths with the 49ers’ game plan, in my expectations. The red zone has been, and still is, a severe issue. But a lot of what transpired Sunday seemed to be more coincidental and less related to QB play.
What we did learn for the first time, and falls in line with what success Beathard was having, is that Garoppolo is fearless. Not only can he wait until the last minute to “let it rip” through a small window, but he can also maintain the poise through the decision-making process as the pressure is on.
In his post-game interview, Garoppolo explained what was going through his head and if he could see the completion to wide receiver Louis Murphy, in triple coverage, in the third quarter around the nine minute mark. He simply said no, because he got pummeled with the rush immediately, but he knew the depth and the route. But most importantly, he said that he knew the Chicago linebacker (No. 52) could no longer see him.
This was an “aha” moment for me. Garoppolo basically said he didn’t see because he was about to be pummeled, and certainly was, but he knew the linebacker could not accurately read him because he was out of his field of vision. So he could rely on the same small windows he had beat the Bears up with over the middle all game, because the underneath man was going to be a step behind.
All of this, as someone was about to mangle him on the pass rush within a half second.
Garoppolo has not proven that he can effectively mount a deep attack, and he has not proven that he can call plays or audible from the line. What he has shown, though, is a smooth and agile quick-thinking QB with zip in his release and a cool demeanor, who can play ball control on you all day long with slant and crossing routes into small windows.
This, in conjunction with a stingy defense and some special teams, can win games against most.
The defense in this game deserves as much credit as any star QB. It played very well for a severely depleted unit with a lot of rookies. San Francisco’s defense played fast and smart, while confusing and pressuring Trubisky. While Garoppolo played well enough to keep the ball in the offense’s hands most of the game, the defense kept the Niners in it.
But it was the special teams that won the day.
Robbie Gould returned home for the first time in his career not playing for the Chicago Bears. Being the only 49er to score points, with a perfect 5-of-5 on field goals, was enough to give San Francisco the win. Gould had a truly special day with family and loved ones in the stands.
The 49ers have their first successful recipe this year that could stretch past a game or two. To start out an identity in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, we could see a bit of a throwback to 49ers lore, with a ball-control offense through the air, on short high percentage routes and a tenacious, stifling defense, much like the beginnings of Bill Walsh and the West Coast Offense’s beginnings in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe this approach has longevity in today’s NFL, but it can be very effective with perfection in spurts.
More from Niner Noise
- 49ers 2023 NFL Draft tracker: Pick-by-pick news and analysis
- Predicting 49ers NFL Draft picks by looking at final mocks
- DraftKings NFL Draft Promo – Win $150 Guaranteed on Any $5 Bet
- 2023 NFL Draft: EDGE Byron Young could be impact player for 49ers
- 5 low-key NFL Draft options for 49ers who are flying under the radar
Garoppolo has a lot left to prove, as far as being an all-around elite QB. But I honestly believe he is one of the best precision-slant/crossing route passers I have ever seen. This team is attempting to build confidence, accuracy, consistency, fundamentals and the beginnings of an identity for a foundation.
This is a good start and could easily lead to more wins this season.
For all of the fans out there wanting losses for draft position, I will call you out right now. The 49ers are better than that and do more with symmetry, education and confidence than a few spots in the draft will ever amount to.
Every win makes this team better than any months’ worth of practice. Free agents come to winning cultures, and players that speak highly of the system and coaching staff they are currently playing for, influence other players to want to be part of it.
It’s a good start for the Niners.
Continue to follow Niner Noise for the best stories and coverage of your San Francisco 49ers.