Jeff Garcia now one of the NFL's elite class of quarterbacks
December 24, 2000 at 12:00 AM
San Francisco Quarterback Jeff Garcia was supposed to be just a band-aid quarterback in replacing Steve Young in September of 1999. He was not supposed to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.
Garcia was supposed to be the transitional quarterback to some other knighted quarterback after the championship caliber quarterbacks of Joe Montana and Steve Young had come and gone. Certainly Jeff Garcia was not the answer?
Jeff Garcia has experienced legendary transitions before when he was with the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League, he stepped in and grasped the reins from none other then Doug Flutie himself.
In all senses of the word Jeff has resurrected what was thought to be a dying offense in the NFL when he accepted the daunting challenge of replacing All-Pro Quarterback Steve Young. His signature on this offense has been definitive and exhilarating.
“He is a quarterback that is a big surprise for the National Football League,” San Diego linebacker Junior Seau said.
“He picked up where Flutie left off,” Chargers coach Mike Riley said. “He’s got quickness; vision-he’s a playmaker.
In 1998 Garcia while still in the CFL, thought the San Diego Chargers were making a play for him. He heard through some reliable sources that they were making a play for him.
His very supporting father phoned then-general manager Bobby Beathard, but never received a return phone call.
At one point in time he even phoned Junior Seau’s restaurant to learn more about the Charger’s interest in his son. Little did he realize that San Francisco was the franchise that had the interest?
“That was a great move by the 49er’s,” Riley said. “And they stuck with him through a little bit of doubt.”
Jeff Garcia has experienced a number of daunting physical and emotional challenges as this season has rolled along, so many skeptic’s have passed doubts on this remarkable athlete and even involved the media in a relentless barrage of negative publicity about this heir to the 49er throne.
I have always had a positive and distinct interest in Garcia’s abilities as he filled the void left by Young after his season-ending injury. His plays even then looked to me like a person hell-bent on trying to make a play out of nothing at any cost including his own personnel self body and limb.
I was thrilled to observe his never ending searches for something downfield and if there was nothing he would tuck the ball and become the running back we thought only Steve Young could do.
It has taken Jeff Garcia a long time to acquaint himself to the intricacies of the west-coast offense but his hard workaholic attitude and his endless hours of film observation and on field practice repetitions paid huge dividends as the seasons melted into one another.
Garcia never had the chance to stand on the sideline for very long and learn from observing Steve Young he was catapulted into the starting position when Young went down with a career-ending concussion. Starting 10 games and playing in three others Garcia went on to light the torch he now carries as the undisputed leader of this renewed offense.
“This is a much more different situation,” said Garcia, when comparing his chances in the CFL and the NFL. “It’s a much larger scale, a much bigger spotlight. Obviously, two of their last quarterbacks to lead this team (Joe Montana, Young) are Hall of Famers or a future Hall of Famer. The standard has been set very high.”
Inner turmoil is nothing new to Garcia either as when in the beginning of the season in a game against the Carolina Panthers, Garcia suddenly and without reservation was pulled from the game as the starter and benched in favor of back-up quarterback Rick Mirer.
When Rick Mirer showed great results as soon as he took the reins, the ingredients for a quarterback controversy were sown. Garcia had thrown three touchdown passes and two interceptions in that game he abruptly found himself once again staring from the sidelines.
“I was (ticked) off for the first time,” Garcia said. “I started to show some anger and stood up for myself. It was only two games into the season; I had been anointed the starter, now all of a sudden that was the situation? I believe that was a bad situation that shouldn’t occur. They kind of left me out to dry on that one.”
Certainly even I can remember this dark moment in Jeff’s season as he was distraught and in some ways humiliated to a point where confidence in him was compromised. I believe the answer should have been a more patient one especially that early into the season.
Immediately after his benching he went four games without one interception, while at the same time throwing for 13 touchdowns. His inner demons were tamed to the point that Garcia was confident in his abilities to rise above the negative stink and move on.
Jeff Garcia actually grew up in the very back-yard of the San Francisco 49er’s he played at nearby San Jose State, impressing then -Stanford coach Bill Walsh so much that he sent a memo to all NFL teams recommending they draft Garcia.
Even though Garcia was named most valuable player at the East-West Shrine Game his senior season, neither the 49er’s or any other NFL team took Walsh’s advice.
So after that Garcia signed with Calgary of the CFL. By his fifth season, in 1998, he led his team to a Grey Cup championship and was named MVP. “I turned on the tapes of the Canadian Football League and I thought he looked as good as (Doug) Flutie did there,” said Ken Henrock, vice president of personnel for the Packers. “I couldn’t understand why (NFL teams) weren’t trying to get him.”
Eventually after signing with the 49er’s. Back in May, in a casual conversation in a hotel lobby, coach Steve Mariucci told me Garcia was going to surprise a lot of people this year. Six months later, Falcons cornerback Ray Buchannan termed Garcia’s growth tae as “shocking”. “What Garcia has done, according to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, is condense eight to 12 bad plays per game into three or four. By comparison, the great Steve Young was making two or three.
Jeff Garcia’s strength is his ability to avoid negative plays. Because he has a sense of the pressure around him, he becomes elusive and knows when to throw the ball away. Garcia has made the offensive line look that much better. He has been sacked 10 times and has one of the best sacks per play ratio in the NFL.
He is a pinball of a quarterback. Bootlegs and sprint-outs are his favorites, and he knows how to manage the pocket. “He was running faster than most of the people on the field,” said Falcons safety Marty Carter after a 49er victory. “It was surprising how fast he was. He has good acceleration, which is rare at that position. I haven’t faced someone with that combination, someone who can run and throw that well.”
It is so very hard to imagine that we may have the very best quarterback today in the league in very similarity to what Steve Young was with a much better defense at the time. That alone in itself is a lot to swallow, I have nothing but admiration and praise for this incredible athletic individual I believe he is the future of this franchise at least for the next seven to nine years at least.
Is that a bold statement maybe it is, however he has demonstrated to me in two seasons a unique charisma and sense of knowledge of the game that some of the very veteran elite in this league took longer to accomplish.
Jeff has a heart of gold and he speaks as a team member not someone who is above everyone else he is humble and accommodating to all his teammates. I can honestly attest that he is a solid all-around energetic and caring person for the game that he loves and the people he steps onto the field of battle with.
Garcia is only 6-1 in height but he plays bigger then that for a man who weighs only 195 pounds. Toughness is a word that best describes what he is all about. He’s not what you call conventional.
Garcia sometimes throws the ball from positions more twisted than anything they make at Auntie Anne’s. “At times, it almost looks like he’s playing back-yard sandlot football,” said Eagles coach Andy Reid, who makes it a point to study other teams that run the West-Coast offense. “He gets knocked around, and he is still accurate. He’s fun to watch.”
Another one of Garcia’s exceptional abilities is that he always plays it safe, in addition to avoiding sacks because of his offensive line and mobility, he rarely throws interceptions.
Only four quarterbacks, have a lower interception percentage this season.
You can almost compare him to a driver in a vehicle when he approaches a yellow light at an intersection there’s no question he’s braking. Which in my opinion is the best way to go in reducing costly turnovers.
Garcia is the perfect fit for a west-coast type of offense, if you took him out of this system and placed him somewhere else, chances are he would be dramatically less spectacular.
He does have a few gray hairs at age 30, but he is a mature quarterback at that, as he trusts the system, the plays that are called and his receivers, throwing to them on timing.
“He’s not just running the offense; he’s generating it,” Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said. “And Marty is putting him in good positions, utilizing what he does, using him in enough different looks that you can’t get zeroed in on what they do.”
Certainly the testaments of his abilities are vivid and real, respect is being built for this amazing quarterback that no one knew much about and his timing could not have been better as the 49er’s are in a rebuilding process.
With the right combinations of excellent drafting and signings of contributing free agents this team has the potential to be a playoff caliber team as soon as next year. We have the raw talent it is taming that talent and utilizing it into a powerful force that can make the difference between winning and losing.
Jeff Garcia gives us that opportunity above anyone else; we must seize the opportunities as they present themselves, and his permanent stature 0on this team is definitely an option we must think carefully about.
On December 15th Jeff Garcia was named to this years Pro Bowl, a unbelievable achievement for someone standing in the shadows of Joe Montana and Steve Young in the 49er’s distinguished chain of signature quarterbacks.
“I think I’ve done some things this year that have kind of allowed me to create my own image, to show I can be the leader of this team, hopefully for a lot of years to come.” Said Garcia, who has completed 301 of 477 passes for 3,688 yards, 28 touchdowns and only nine interceptions this season. He joins Minnesota’s Daunte Culpepper and St. Louis Kurt Warner on the NFC Pro Bowl squad.
Garcia, who finished third behind Culpepper and Warner, beat out Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb, a MVP candidate who was the most surprising omission in 2000 Pro Bowl voting.
Jeff’s climb to the top of the mountain has been a memorable experience for me; I have had so much enjoyment observing him perform on the field. He has demonstrated the very instinct of survival in the NFL, and in many ways even defined it to some degree. His continued success must be a paramount for this team to move ahead.
Two of his teammates will join him in the Pro Bowl, both are from the offense; wide receiver Terrell Owens, who has 74 catches for 1,133 yards and 12 touchdowns, and running back Charlie Garner (1,096 rushing yards)- will join the 49er’s quarterback in the NFC squad. All three will be reserves, and all are making their first trips to the NFL’s annual all-star game in Hawaii.
Garcia, in his first full season as the 49er’s starter, becomes the fifth quarterback in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl, He joins a list that includes Frank Albert, Y.A. Tittle, John Brodie, Joe Montana and Steve Young. He is also the third consecutive full-time quarterback to earn Pro Bowl honors, joining Montana and Young.
Jeff has rushed 62 times for 384 yards (6.2) and four touchdowns. His 28 touchdowns are a career-high and rank second in the NFL. His 98.6 QB rating ranks fourth in the league standings.
In Week 16 against the Chicago Bears all attention was on the fact that wide receiver Jerry Rice was playing his very last home game as a 49er. The sentiment and emotions were running high that day not only for the fans but teammates as well honoring Jerry for all his incredible contributions to this franchise.
At the same time Jeff Garcia enjoyed a monumental day, as he passed for 402 yards that day pushing him over the 4,000 mark for the season. Steve Young is the only other quarterback in 49er’s history to accomplish the 4,000-yard feat, doing so in 1993 and 98.
“It’s a number that’s not hit all that often,” said Garcia, who was 36-for-44 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. “As much success as this offense has had all these years, to see it happen only twice (before) with this team shows how difficult it is to get 4,000 yards passing?”
With this astonishing mark in only his second season as a 49er Jeff needs only 81 more yards to eclipse Young’s team record for single-season passing yards. He will get that opportunity in San Francisco’s finale in Three-Mile High Stadium against the Denver Bronco’s.
“I know it’s going to be a cold day in Denver and you might see me wearing gloves out there,” said Garcia, who spent five seasons in the cold confines of the Canadian Football League before joining the 49er’s. “I’m used to the gloves and I’m used to the cold weather, too.”
Jeff Garcia has acknowledged that his 4,000-yard milestone serves as a tribute to the whole entire offense, including the coaches who have asked him to throw 521 times.
Garcia has also said that without the offensive line and their excellent blocking he would never have had the time to throw the ball the way he has this season, and to his star-receivers his he is very grateful.
Jeff Garcia is the future of this franchise, the speculation on whether to draft another quarterback or look for a free agent is bogus, and the negative trash talk about his durability and inability to throw long passes has been soundly destroyed.
In all honor and respect I acknowledge you Jeff as the heir apparent to the throne of this fabulous franchise, that I love and enjoy so much. I look forward to many more years of your playmaking skills, intelligent decisions, sound management of the pocket, diversity of throws to your receivers and your mental and physical toughness for the game itself.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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