Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo fighting perception, looking to prove he can lead 49ers

Nov 24, 2022 at 11:15 AM--

Is the Jimmy Garoppolo who threw for 228 yards and four touchdowns the guy San Francisco 49ers fans were looking for or is this an illusion like last year?

Since stepping back into the starting role for quarterback Trey Lance, who suffered an ankle injury in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers have a 6-3 record. Garoppolo has thrown 15 touchdowns and four interceptions, but there is something different about him this year compared to his past couple of years with the team.

Garoppolo does not look like the same player who lost a heartbreaker in last year's NFC Championship Game. Instead, he has the fiery presence of someone you want to follow on and off the field. Even the former Eastern Illinois Panther quarterback's deep ball seems to have more touch.

This year's Jimmy G resembles the same guy the Niners traded for in 2017 who won the last five games of that season, including a Week 16 44-33 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were a quarter away from a Super Bowl appearance that season.

Sports pundits have said Garoppolo is playing with house money and auditioning for a new team since Lance is San Francisco's starting quarterback, but this was told to Garoppolo when the 49ers traded up to take Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft.

After a poor performance in Denver and a stink of a game at home against the Chiefs, Garoppolo gives off a fighter mentality. He gets back up after being knocked down instead of looking defeated in a bad game, which is something a former 49ers great had to learn.

In the "America's Game" feature of the 49ers' 1994 season, former players Brent Jones and Steve Young recall the turning point in the team's season and how teammates looked at the eventual league Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP.

During a 40-8 beat down by the Philadelphia Eagles, head coach George Seifert benched Young in the middle of the third quarter, but the cameras caught Young yelling at his coach.

The former All-Pro tight end said Young's outburst galvanized the team.

"There's a lot of guys who said, 'Hey, wait a second. This guy's got some fight in him,'" Jones said. "I like that guy. I want a guy that's not afraid to tell George Seifert to jump in the lake."

Young said he was shocked it took his teammates to see him ready to fight Seifert to rally behind him.

"The funny thing about the whole event, from my teammates' standpoint, was suddenly I was a fiery leader, and I almost wanted to go home, throw up, and think about, 'Are you kidding me?'" Young said. "For all these years, I've been out here battling, and I yell at the coach, and now you're like ready to follow me. But it taught me a vital lesson of football. Perception is reality. If you're perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that's the truth in people's minds."

The 49ers would go on to win Super Bowl XXIX, and Young was the MVP of the game with 325 yards passing and six touchdown passes.

The key word is perception. What everyone sees about you is their reality, and this is what fans may believe.

49ers fans do not see the guy who his teammates speak about with nothing but positivity, go to Warriors games, concerts, and other events with, but see a quarterback who plays for their favorite team.

After the 2017 offseason, Garoppolo was seen as possibly the next great quarterback for the 49ers. He seemed to have a great social life, including dating adult film actress Kiara Mia. But this would be the beginning of his downfall with the five-time Super Bowl champion fanbase.

In a Week 3 showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2018 season, the 49ers were down 35-7. Garoppolo rallied the team to a 24-35 deficit and was on the verge of scoring before he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

When returning for the 2019 season, Garoppolo did not appear to have the same moxie despite leading the 49ers to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance. However, he couldn't lead San Francisco to a sixth Lombardi trophy.

In the next couple of seasons, Garoppolo would be hit and miss with fans and the media, where he would have a love-hate relationship—the same as Steve Young.

After an embarrassing Week 9 31-17 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals during the 2021 season—one in which quarterback Kyler Murray, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt we're all missing—the 49ers would win five out of their next six games.

During this stretch, Garoppolo averaged 235 yards per game, 10 touchdowns, and three interceptions. He led the Niners to wins against the two Super Bowl participants—the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.

The Faithful, pundits, beat writers, and sports talk shows seemed to be back on the Jimmy G bandwagon and felt the Niners' weakness for getting the sixth ring is now a strength. This was before a Week 16 Thursday night showdown against the Tennesee Titans, when Garoppolo showed he was the weak link of the 49ers.

San Francisco took the opening drive down the field. Garoppolo looked like a chef as he carved the Titans' defense apart. However, the 49ers' second drive would bring Jimmy G back to reality as he threw an interception in the end zone.

Garoppolo missed a wide-open Kyle Juszczyk down the sideline, making other crucial mistakes that allowed the Titans to defeat San Francisco 20-17.

The Garoppolo hate started back up, but thanks to a team effort, the Niners would make the playoffs and go to the NFC Conference Championship Game despite the play of their starting quarterback.

In the 1994 documentary about the Super Bowl champions, Young talked about how he was not accepted until he led the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory.

"Nothing was gonna change in my life substantially, and I learned this because I won the MVP twice, and nothing was gonna change until you win this," Young said. "That was the way it was, and that was the way Joe (Montana) built it. They'd had four of them, and we needed one. I needed one. 'Without a Super Bowl, we like you. You can hang around, but we don't love you. And we don't want you to stay too long.'"

Despite the team moving on to Lance as their starter, Garoppolo signed a restructured one-year deal before the start of the season to be the backup quarterback. He was ready when the second-year quarterback suffered an ankle fracture in a Week 2 matchup against the hated Seattle Seahawks.

After the Week 11 victory against the Arizona Cardinals, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said the ninth-year quarterback is doing a great job.

"When Jimmy's been healthy out there, we've had our guys around him, he plays at a high level, and I think he did that today as good as he has," Shanahan said. "We're very fortunate to have him."

All-pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel sent out a "Himmy Guap" tweet on November 22, and All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey said the nine-year pro is a talented quarterback.

"He doesn't get enough credit in my eyes at all," McCaffrey said. "He is a great leader, super smart, can make any throw, and just a great guy to be around. It's been a lot of fun to be able to pick his brain and mesh with him."

The key to the 49ers getting their sixth championship is the quarterback position. In these past games, Garoppolo has shown that the team is ready for contention. But what if he has a solid season, or he becomes the reason the 49ers win Super Bowl 57? Does the front office let Garoppolo walk in free agency or re-sign him and trade Lance?

In the October 24 "Christian McCaffrey trade: Should the 49ers go all in" article, Bill Barnwell suggests trading Lance for draft picks.

"The Niners would re-sign Garoppolo to an extension this offseason," Barnwell wrote. "Lance still probably would net a late first-round pick or early second-round pick in return. I will admit the trade I keep coming back to -- given Atlanta's desire to run the ball and Shanahan's stockpiling of positionless playmakers -- is a swap of Lance for tight end Kyle Pitts. I'm not sure that solves the draft capital problem, but it's fun to argue about."

The 49ers' next game will be against a former NFC West rival, the New Orleans Saints, now in the NFC South, and their eighth-ranked pass defense. It's a Week 12 showdown where the 49ers have a shot of putting a stranglehold on the division, and Garoppolo can show the world he can lead San Francisco to great heights.
  • Written by:
    Sports has been my first love since I was 12 years old. At one point I wanted to play football professionally. I started to take photography as a hobby in my teenage years but this was when I followed sports. I started to listen to sports radio, I found my true calling and it was to be a sports talk show host. Though I follow football and basketball, I started to have a new love of cultures around the world. After graduating from San Antonio College in 2018, I worked for the Castroville News Bulletin before going to A&M San Antonio to get my communications degree. Since I have written for the Ranger of San Antonio College, the News Bulletin and the Mesquite of Texas A&M San Antonio, I met many people and went to a lot of events. My major milestone was being in the press box of the San Antonio Commanders game for the Mesquite and being apart of a press conference with the Medina County Sheriff and other local news outlets. When I am not doing anything, I like to watch old cartoons on the DC Universe, play video games such as Mega Man and the Mass Effect series. I have also created Youtube channel called "Anger Management" with my friend Aaron Donnell.
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