By: Cole A. McMahon
The 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo have almost come full circle in their journey together.
Going into Week 2, the 49ers were 0-1 after a grueling game in the Chicago rain where the Niners seemingly fell apart in the middle of the third quarter. Now the Niners looked to bounce back against their division rival Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers could not escape the rain as it followed them to Santa Clara. Levi’s Stadium was filled with red and gold for the first home game of the season. On the first drive, Trey Lance led the Niners down to the red zone only to come up short a few yards. Reliable Robbie Gould would kick the easy 3-points to put the Niners ahead. Momentum began to build during the Niners’ second drive as Deebo managed a 51-yard run after looking like he may get swallowed up behind the line. Positive yards are expected to come whenever the ball gets put into Deebo’s hands. Things took a dark turn two plays later when Lance ran a read option and took a big hit resulting in a broken ankle.
What was a questionable move to sign Jimmy Garoppolo as a backup ended up being the greatest move the Niners have made this season. Trey Lance’s injury is not the end of the 49ers’ season. Garoppolo’s stat line was 13-21, 154 yards, one passing TD, and one rushing TD. The sun began to shine on Levi’s as Garoppolo took the Niners to victory. Garoppolo’s play looked smooth and natural as he made passes outside the Niners and took some deeper shots downfield.
Garoppolo made the comparison about when he first played with the Niners, “It kind of felt like 2017. Just go throwing and make plays.” That is what Garoppolo did as he threw his first touchdown pass to a wide-open Ross Dwelley to put the Niners up 13-0. Finishing the game, the Niners would win 27-7 with Garoppolo scoring with a QB sneak.
As Niner fans, it is almost comical how the quarterback charades have worked out for this franchise. The 49ers traded for Garoppolo in 2017. He went in for an injured C.J. Beathard and passed his first touchdown. Then, he led the Niners to a 5-game win streak to end the 2017 season. In 2018, Garoppolo tore his ACL against the Chiefs. The following year in 2019, Garoppolo led the Niners to the Super Bowl. In 2020, he suffered a high-ankle sprain that stuck with him throughout the year. During the 2021 offseason, the 49ers Niners traded two picks and moved up to select Trey Lance third overall in the draft. Garoppolo started in 2021, but the Niners got off to a bumpy start with a 3-5 record while Garoppolo also missed starts with injuries. Then he and the team battled to a 10-6 record, beating the Cowboys in the Wild Card, the Packers in an icebox game at Lambeau, and finally battling the Rams in the NFC Championship game only to lose and snap the 6-game win streak the Niners had against the Rams. It was but all certain the 49ers and Garoppolo would go their separate ways. Surprisingly, Jimmy G and the 49ers negotiated a new contract for Garoppolo to become the highest-paid backup quarterback in the league. Now two games into the 2022 season Trey Lance broke his ankle and Jimmy G is once again the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
In any normal instance, when your team’s starting quarterback goes down with a season-ending injury, that is also the end of your team’s season. The move to re-sign Jimmy G is now the smartest move the Niners have made this so far. Their season is not flushed down the toilet and they have a completely capable quarterback to win games and make a playoff run with a Super Bowl ready roster.
However, in the long term, Lance’s and the 49ers' future have taken a big blow with the ankle injury. This season is supposed to be Trey Lance’s opportunity to develop weekly and get the experience needed in the NFL to be successful. He has only played a total of three full games in his NFL career–making him very raw.
What does this mean for the 2023 49ers team when Jimmy G is not there? It may be overthinking it right now, but the state of this 49ers team is in a win-now mode. Trey Lance will be in his 3rd NFL season with barely any experience. Valuable reps and playing time has been taken away from Lance’s development and it puts him and the Niners in a bad place going into the ‘23 season down the road.
At this point in time, QB Jimmy Garoppolo may be considered the 49ers’ savior. Imagine the Jimmy G tale ending with him playing the best football in his career taking the Niners to the playoffs and getting his redemption by winning a sixth Super Bowl for the 49ers franchise. A storybook ending to close out the sporadic chapter in time with Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.