Jumping the gun by saying you have a franchise quarterback before you really know can lead to some seriously Freezing Cold Takes. But Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start for the 49ers sort of transcended the rule – not even the toughest critics held back. The quarterback looked sensational in his third-ever NFL start Sunday, and was showered with praise by players, current and former, as well as veteran media members.
"To me, it's like he really learned from Tom Brady," running back Carlos Hyde told the media. "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."
Franchise tackle Joe Staley chimed in, saying, "We've got a quarterback, huh?"
Smiles continued on the way back home, too, as ESPN’s Jim Trotter unearthed a postgame story in which the team was "so impressed with [Garoppolo] after their 15-14 win at Chicago that wide receiver Marquise Goodwin – with other players cheering – offered to get up and give Garoppolo his first-row seat on the team bus when Garoppolo boarded it.”
Goodwin, who had his best game as a 49er, expressed great confidence in Garoppolo even before Trotter's story reportedly took place.
"He's got it all together," the receiver said. "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."
During the game NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, who has served on the beat for over 20 years, unequivocally said Garoppolo “looks damn good.” Rare praise from someone who knows. Dan Hanzus of NFL.com streamlined it, and nailed it, by simply saying Garopoolo “looks, moves, throws like a franchise quarterback.”
What’s more, Mike Silver went on 95.7 The Game with Damon Bruce to talk about Garoppolo prior to his first start in red and gold, and referencing what he first saw in Garoppolo’s start with the Patriots against Arizona, went as far as to say “he looked like a young Tom Brady."
That's two Brady comps in a week's time.
But Silver didn't end up looking foolish, and neither did Hyde for that matter, as that pedigree first seen in Foxborough translated in a brand new element 3,000 miles away.
Outside the confines of New England, detached from Bill Belichick’s mythological system, and on a team he can call his own, Garoppolo was razor sharp. The passer went 26-of-37 for 293 yards and an interception*. He also had a 95.7 passer rating when kept clean, and led a game-winning drive on the road with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter to double the 49ers’ season win total.
Expectations were far exceeded, that was the consensus.
We’re seeing someone with command of the huddle and total control at the line of scrimmage, high-level processing before and after the snap, textbook fundamentals from his footwork to his release, an instant ability to get everyone involved and elevate the performance from those around him, the arm talent to drive the ball outside and vertically, we're seeing someone who throws with accuracy and anticipation, and on top of it all, he's beaming with confidence.
Phew . . . it's quite a package to behold, especially for nothing more than a second-round pick.
Even if you wanted to ding Garoppolo, for something, anything, you really couldn’t yet. All his snaps as a pro – the two starts in New England, the interim three-play TD finish in relief of an injured C.J. Beathard, and his debut against Chicago – it’s all been solid. He hasn’t put any bad tape together, so as of now, we only have positive takeaways to share.
He’ll hit his bumps in the road, without a doubt, but there is no questioning this is the player you commit to building around, in the draft and with $100 million in free-agent money. You can rely on the continued ascension of Garoppolo. And there is the chance that he in fact is the real deal, as he has shown, and the 49ers are trending upward, perhaps toward a Wild Card spot as soon as 2018.
What's clear, at least for now, is that the 49ers have climbed to the next tier at the most crucial position in all of sports, and have perhaps just cracked open the door to a new era of competing for Super Bowls.
Media courtesy Getty Images, @BaldyNFL