Jimmy Garoppolo leaves behind a mixed legacy with 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The tenure of Jimmy Garoppolo as the 49ers quarterback is now almost certainly over after a loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship game.

The knowledge that the San Francisco 49ers came from almost certain defeat and no playoff appearance at all to be one of the last four teams standing after the 2021 season is probably not very comforting to fans right now.

Indeed, squandering another substantial lead late in a playoff game is enough to cause some pretty harsh emotions to come through, yet that’s precisely what happened as the Niners squandered a 10-point lead to the Los Angeles Rams in the 2022 NFC Championship game, ultimately losing 20-17 and seeing their hopes for another Super Bowl run completely dashed.

Not lost in the immediate aftermath, however, is that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s tenure as San Francisco’s starting quarterback is now all but officially over. It’s time for the Trey Lance era.

In a way, the game perfectly encapsulated everything about the Garoppolo era. Some highs and lows, mixed in with excitement and frustration, only to fall short of the ultimate goal.

The bad was there to see in his play. The only thing consistent was how inconsistent he was. Ultimately, he was never able to evolve his game, and that was what cost him.

Bad judgment calls when throwing was always his downfall, along with an inability to have a consistent deep passing game.

Ultimately, the NFC Championship was his last shot to show the 49ers could win with him. They could not. The entire playoff series he played poorly, and although his first half of the game against Los Angeles was in fact quite good, the second half was a kind of meltdown the Niners had seen before.

Jimmy Garoppolo legacy with 49ers will be a complicated one

A lot will be written in the coming days about the shortcomings of the Garoppolo era, however. It’s important to remember it isn’t an entirely bad legacy.

Garoppolo was an extremely popular guy in the locker room. He has a good attitude and never complained even after the 49ers traded up to draft his replacement in Lance. Like a professional, Garoppolo went on with his job and didn’t make it hard on the team. His teammates publicly went out to vouch for him, and he was a leader on the field if nothing else.

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Garoppolo was also the figurehead of the Niners’ return to relevance. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan needed someone to kickstart the return from the barren wasteland former general Trent Baalke left them in after the disastrous 2016 season, and Garoppolo was perfect.

He was popular for a reason. His movie-star good looks, his attitude, and more importantly to fans, the fact the team was winning were all causes to make Garoppolo exceptionally well-liked.

Yes, that ended up wearing thin by the end, but even this season he still won more than he lost.

The legacy of Garoppolo will be simple to write but harder to explain. He was once the poster child for a new era of 49ers football, but then became a symbol for all that was holding it back. It’s a mixed legacy, but he does leave San Francisco in a better place than when he arrived.

When the emotions of this loss heal over, Garoppolo will be remembered in a more positive light than right at this moment. He wasn’t the person to lead the 49ers back to the promised land, but maybe he was the right person at the right time to lead San Francisco on that path back.

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