No. 3: Jimmy Garoppolo is not only a quarterback, but a leader
It’s not often a team, which was undefeated well into the season, is accused of having a quarterback problem, but the 49ers were said to have a quarterback problem:
Not only was Garoppolo a weak link, but he was considered by some to be the player that would cost the 49ers the Super Bowl.
Garoppolo literally threw away all these criticisms and silenced them with a commanding performance over the Cardinals.
But it wasn’t the scoring (four touchdowns to four different receivers and a potential fifth on a halfback screen, dropped by running back Tevin Coleman) which should catch the eye, but rather some other aspects of this performance.
Firstly, this was a game where Garoppolo needed to shoulder literally the entire team. The running game and the defense were not switched on, so this was literally the first time since his ACL injury Garoppolo had to be the guy.
You can’t argue with the results.
Garoppolo carried the team on his performance on Thursday night, and showed he wasn’t only a good passer, but a true leader. When the pressure was on, he came through every time.
The ability to be a leader was shown in the dying minutes of the game, when the Cardinals made it a nervous ending by scoring to make the score 28-25 for the 49ers.
Using an uptempo offense, the Cardinals had significant momentum on their side. If they got the ball back, they very well could have won the game or at the very least forced overtime.
Instead, Garoppolo showed up with some clutch ability in the mold of, dare I say it, Hall of Famer Joe Montana.
San Francisco 49ers
When faced with a long third down, Garoppolo stared down pressure in the face before launching a perfect strike to Emmanuel Sanders.
After successfully getting to the two-minute warning, the 49ers had a 3rd down. If they converted it, the game was over. If the Cardinals held, they had two minutes to try to win.
Garoppolo took the ball and expertly rode a rapidly collapsing pocket. Suddenly free and with clear air in front of him, he took off for the first down, but realized he wouldn’t make it to the marker in time before an Arizona defender would tackle him.
Seeing backup tight end Ross Dwelley, Garoppolo instantly pulled up and hit him between the numbers.
First down, game over, undefeated season rolls on.
A lesser quarterback would have panicked and either tried to beat the defender in front of him, fall on the ground or risk a bad throw by throwing across his body on the run. Garoppolo picked the fourth option of pulling up and planting his feet before firing a perfect strike.
Garoppolo didn’t win the game just because he threw four touchdowns. He won the game because he pulled several clutch plays to bleed the clock to ensure Arizona never had a chance to win the game.
In the passing era of the NFL, you need a guy like Garoppolo. While he makes the odd bad play by trying to force the ball, 99 percent of his play is franchise-quarterback worthy, even if San Francisco has a reputation (deservedly) of a running football team.
The top thing we learned in this game which will serve the 49ers on a playoff run? We know exactly what Garoppolo can do.
And it is championship worthy.