Fans of 2-10 football teams aren't supposed to be happy. Fans of 2-10 football teams are supposed to be wallowing in ankle-deep waste watching their morbid team stink up the joint week after week after week. Fans of 2-10 football teams are supposed to be dreaming about some amorphous player-to-be-named-later while pouring over way-too-early mock drafts.
Not San Francisco fans today. On Monday, Niners fans should wake with ear-to-ear grins. Not because Kyle Shanahan's crew eked out a 15-14 road win in Chicago. The future is much brighter than one week in early December 2017.
Yes, Joe, you do.
Jimmy Garoppolo looked every bit a franchise quarterback in Sunday's victory. The 26-year-old signal-caller displayed athleticism, pinpoint accuracy over the middle, sublime pocket movement, patience to get through reads, arm-strength to thread tight windows, and mettle to lead a fourth-quarter comeback.
Garoppolo justified all the kind words drooled about him during his three-plus years in New England, and exemplified why Bill Belichick did just about everything he could to avoid moving on from the young signal-caller.
Jimmy G is the real deal.
"To me, it's like he really learned from Tom Brady," running back Carlos Hyde said. "That's what he reminded me of: just a young Tom Brady out there. How Brady is late in the game, where you give him like 30 seconds to go, yo, he can still win the game for his team."
Hyde is free to make a Brady comparison about his new teammate. We won't leap to such heights of grandeur after one start for San Francisco. But it's hella hard not to become giddy when watching Garoppolo.
"Just look at him. Look at him," receiver Marquise Goodwin said, via the Sacramento Bee. "He's got it all together. He came in a short time (ago) and is helping us flip this thing around. Some people are just winners, and he's a winner."
The 49ers sat Garoppolo for a month after acquiring the QB from the Patriots just before Halloween. Given Shanahan's complex system, a porous offensive line, and a gaggle of low-grade receivers the Niners didn't want to toss Jimmy G into the fire right away.
The patience paid off Sunday.
Not only did Garoppolo earn a win in his first start for the Niners, he displayed the ability to raise the level of his teammate's play.
The quarterback hit eight different pass-catchers while throwing for a career-high 293 yards. Garoppolo connected with Goodwin for a career-high eight receptions and turned slot-man Trent Taylor into a dangerous weapon in the open field (the Taylor comparisons to Wes Welker and Julian Edelman will get out of hand shortly if this keeps up). His quick release, pocket movement, and ability to remain accurate while on different throwing platforms helped make up for imperfect blockers.
It wasn't all perfect, as the Niners continually bogged down in the red zone leading to five field goals. Those failures, however, will turn with more reps and after San Francisco builds up the roster in the offseason. We don't need to nitpick when success for San Francisco is more about progress than wins and losses. Snapping up Jimmy G when they had the chance could be a franchise-altering move.
Franchise quarterbacks complete passes they aren't supposed to because they are smarter than defenses and have the talent to conjure a fleeting vision into reality.
Take, for instance, Garoppolo's most risky throw of the day (not his first career interception, which was a fantastic throw that Louis Murphy let him down on). In the third quarter, trailing by five points, on first-and-10 from his own 25-yard-line, Garoppolo play-actioned and turned to see Bears lineman Akiem Hicks barreling towards his throat. Off his back foot, Garoppolo heaved a pass down the seam to Murphy who hauled in the ball for a 16-yard first down. Jimmy G crashed to the earth after getting blown up on the play.
In the moment, CBS play-by-play man Andrew Catalon called it a "dangerous pass" that "appeared destined for an interception."
Was it a dangerous pass? Not according to Garoppolo.
"I knew his route, I knew what his depth was and everything," the QB said of Murphy. "The linebacker had no vision on me, so I knew he wasn't going to make a play on the ball, and I just had to keep it away from the safety and the other linebacker coming over."
Franchise quarterbacks turn dangerous into routine.
The 49ers found their franchise quarterback. Now it's on GM John Lynch to make sure the free-agent-to-be sticks around The Bay.