The San Francisco 49ers have been searching for a franchise quarterback since the days of Steve Young. When General Manager John Lynch made the decision to sign Jimmy Garoppolo, the organization felt the wait was over given how well he played during the last quarter of the season after receiving him from the New England Patriots via trade.
The Niners had a few quarterbacks that seemed to fit the bill but none played well enough to earn a long-term deal. Jeff Garcia showed signs of being a gamer, using his athletic ability and intelligence to create plays for the 49ers offense. Alex Smith was the first overall selection by San Fran back in the 2005 NFL draft. It took Smith about seven seasons to get comfortable with the playbook as he was used to successfully running the spread offense while playing college ball at Utah. Colin Kaepernick was the last hope for the organization to sign a franchise quarterback. Kap stepped in while Smith was injured and took the league by storm. He put fear into the heart of opposing defenses as he mastered the Run/Pass Option (RPO) and ultimately led the team to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season. However, the 49ers only gave Kaepernick a two-year deal and he’s currently unemployed in large part due to his on-field protests.
After two failed experiments with Brian Hoyer and rookie C.J. Beathard this past season, the 49ers knew they had to make a move for a starting quarterback. One who preferably has had success in the NFL. That’s why current head coach of San Francisco and former offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, Kyle Shanahan, had his eye on his former protege Kirk Cousins. However, the 49ers front office had other ideas. As much as Shanahan loves Cousins, both he and John Lynch decided that Jimmy G was the best fit for the 49ers organization moving forward. But did they really need to make Garoppolo the highest paid player in the league?
The 49ers new franchise quarterback signed a stunning contract worth $137.5 million over the next five years! This tells me two things! First, is that Kyle Shanahan must really love Jimmy G’s game because we all know how much he wanted Cousins taking the snaps under center. Second and most importantly, Garoppolo showed the team that he is fully capable of being the signal caller for Shanahan’s offense and management didn’t want to take a chance at missing out on both him and Cousins.
True, Garoppolo only played five games in 2017. However, he led the team to victory in every match up he started. He had the highest quarterback rating in the league over the last five games of the season and he completed over 67 percent of his passes while averaging over 300 yards per game through the air. Not to mention the fact that three of those wins came against playoff teams. They beat the Titans, Rams and Jaguars who had one of the top defenses in the NFL and Jimmy G helped put up 44 points against “Sacksonville.”
We here about the “it” factor when it comes to certain players. Guys like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are prime examples of having the “it” factor. Their ability to make plays on the field when it seems all hope is lost. The clutch throw or run that keeps key drives alive. Putting the ball where only his receiver can catch it while throwing off balance are all the types of things that you really can’t teach. That’s why some players just have “it” and it’s hard for fans and media members to comprehend and put a finger on what makes certain players great. That’s why we say…”that guy just has it!”
It’s too soon to say but I’m thinking Jimmy G has the “it” factor in his equation of football intelligence. The guys I mentioned who posses this incredible gene aren’t the biggest, fastest, most athletic prototypical quarterbacks. Tom Brady is about as athletic as a baby elephant. Russell Wilson can’t ride certain roller coasters because he’s too short. And Aaron Rodgers looks like your next door neighbor. I doubt he even knows where the weight room is at the Packers facility!
That’s my point about Garoppolo. He doesn’t look like a pro quarterback but he is and he’s damn good at it. Jimmy G has this quality about him that seems fearless and stays relaxed under pressure. You get the feeling that something good will happen when he has the ball in his hands. Same goes for the aforementioned star quarterbacks. You just know that somehow this guy will get it done. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but if the end result is a success then it’s a win!
Garoppolo stands tall in the pocket with a very calm demeanor. He has the ability to read a defense and call audibles at the line of scrimmage. He’s extremely accurate, throws a good looking ball and can turn a broken play call into positive yardage with his creativity.
Perhaps all those years sitting behind the living legend, Tom Brady, paid off as I’m sure Garopollo learned a lot about how to succeed on the field but also what it takes to be a leader for your teammates. When you’re the guy in the huddle calling the play, it’s absolutely imperative that the other ten men are paying attention and respecting you while all 20 eyes are staring back at into yours. Jimmy G’s perfect 7 – 0 record as a starter is beginning to give credence to the fact that his teammates do respect him and believe he can get the job done.
I think the 49ers made the right move by making a deal with a potential franchise quarterback. However, I think they may have outbid themselves by offering Garoppolo an average of $27.5 million a year. Given that he’s only started seven NFL games in his four year pro career, it seems the 49ers could have easily got away with paying their new quarterback somewhere in the range of $17 – $20 million per season and even that’s generous. Perhaps a team or two had inquired or whispers got louder about offering Jimmy G the same kind of money the Niners ultimately signed him for.
Having a franchise quarterback is the most important position a team can fill. However, a quarterback can only be as successful as his teammates allow him to be. So because the 49ers front office spent all this money against the salary cap, other positions will likely take a hit and the team won’t be able to cash in on as many free agent acquisitions as previously thought. But San Francisco still has money and draft picks to play with as they prepare for the 2018 season.
Brady, Wilson and Rodgers are all quarterbacks that make the players around them better. We saw Garoppolo take a bunch of “no names” in San Francisco and continuously put together successful drives down the field with ultimate accuracy while scoring points against some really tough defenses. So it would seem that he possesses the same quality as the three aforementioned Super Bowl champion quarterbacks.
The 49ers new QB has the “it” factor and he will give his teammates a renewed sense of confidence and belief in themselves to be successful throughout the year. And I can tell you that when you have confidence, believe in yourself and trust the man standing next to you, a team can become unified and unstoppable. Take a look at this years Super Bowl champions in Philadelphia and they’ll all tell you the same thing. Mental toughness and a true belief in yourself and your teammates will turn a football team into a machine. I can’t wait to see if the Jimmy G effect will continue through next season and thereafter. 49ers fans are very excited and with good reason!