Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen A. Smith finally gives Jimmy Garoppolo some credit (sort of) after 49ers-Saints performance

Dec 9, 2019 at 9:43 AM--

There may be several reasons fans have stopped listening to First Take host Stephen A. Smith. For San Francisco 49ers fans, it is likely his stubborn reluctance to give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo any credit for the Niners' impressive run this season, and maybe the fact that he won't stop calling him "Porn Star Jimmy."

But an interesting thing happened on Monday morning, after Garoppolo and the 49ers went toe-to-toe with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and left the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a 48-46 win. The ESPN personality, Smith, changed his tune when it comes to San Francisco's franchise quarterback ... sort of.

Smith has referred to Garoppolo as "the weak link" for the 49ers. That didn't seem to be the case on Sunday when San Francisco's often-dominant defense struggled to stop Brees and the Saints offense. How did Garoppolo respond? He helped carry the 49ers offense and the team to a win, completing 74.3 percent of his passes for 349 yards with four touchdowns, an interception, and a passer rating of 131.7.

"Yesterday showed me a lot," Smith said on First Take, "and it made me say, 'Damn, it ain't Porn Star Jimmy. This is Jimmy G, right here. This brother ballin'.' But, I'm looking at it and saying, 'OK, I'll be watching you. Now, give me more.'"

That's about where the praise ended. Smith later addressed whether or not he's ready to anoint Garoppolo as a great quarterback.

"Hell no!" Smith exclaimed. "I am not doing it, yet. Listen, your defense is elite, even though it wasn't yesterday. Your running game is elite. The play-calling of Kyle Shanahan is special. (George) Kittle is a baller. ... [Deebo Samuel] can play. You've got some players around you.

"Jimmy G ain't losing games. He was exceptional and really, really showed out yesterday. He really did."

Back to the idea that Garoppolo is the weak link on the team, former NFL head coach Rex Ryan, who was also on the show, disagreed.

"He's not a weak link," Ryan said. "I think that's what he proved. Shanahan put him in there, put the ball in his hands instead of his running game."

Smith went on to try to clarify what he meant by "weak link," saying that if he is game planning against the 49ers, there are several things he is focusing on before turning his attention to Garoppolo.

What did Garoppolo think about the idea that opposing defenses might think defeating the 49ers means letting the quarterback beat you with his arm?

"Let's keep that theory going," Garoppolo told Pam Oliver after the game.

49ers teammate Richard Sherman, once again, praised his quarterback after the game, saying Garoppolo doesn't get the credit he deserves.

"I think he's lost three or four games (over his career)," Sherman told reporters, "and you've got people saying he's not a great quarterback. Anybody else wins that many games in their first [23] starts, you give them a ton of credit but I think today, we rode his back, and we needed to, and he delivered."

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