Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo Can Still Save the 49ers

Dec 6, 2022 at 2:36 PM--

Breaking news - Jimmy Garoppolo might not be done just yet.

Per Adam Schefter, Garoppolo may have avoided a dreaded Lisfranc injury, which can take nearly a year to fully heal. With a rigorous rehab program, Garoppolo could return to play within 7-8 weeks. So where does that fall on the NFL's end-of-season schedule?

Exactly 7 weeks from now is Tuesday, January 24. The first game after that point is the NFC Championship Game the following Sunday. Two weeks after that, obviously, is the Super Bowl. Even if Garoppolo were able to return exactly 7 weeks from today, the 49ers would still have to survive the Wild Card and Divisional Round games to even reach that point. But if they're able to tread water, Garoppolo's return could give the team new life.

The revelation of Garoppolo's potential return suddenly throws even more questions into how San Francisco will approach the end of the regular season. Two days ago, Garoppolo was primed to lead the 49ers to another "Super Bowl or bust" playoff run. Yesterday, the reality hit that Brock Purdy would have to become an unprecedented success—no rookie quarterback has ever led their team to a Super Bowl victory. Today, everything we think we knew has been thrown out the window once again.

It will be tough to know what to expect out of an injured Garoppolo. If he returns and tries to grit out another injury-ridden postseason before he's 100%, it could end up costing San Francisco. But facing the best teams in the league, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan may have to roll the dice and rely on Garoppolo potentially a week or two too early. The determining factor in that decision, though, will be the play of new quarterback Brock Purdy, the final selection of this year's NFL Draft.

The optimal path seems to be to play Purdy all the way through to a conference title, then pivot back to Garoppolo in the Super Bowl. But the risks are as steep as they are obvious. A nightmare scenario involves facing the Eagles, perhaps the only team in the NFC to have a legitimate case at fielding a stronger roster than the 49ers (absent Garoppolo's, well, absence), in the NFC Championship Game, then facing a Chiefs team that has their number in the Super Bowl. But what if the road doesn't end up looking so dangerous? Say the Vikings end up the NFC Champion contenders, and Shanahan likes that matchup for any number of reasons. What would it take for Purdy to remain in charge all the way through that title game?

If there's one thing that determines the 49ers' fate in games like those (other than the horrendous injury luck they've endured for over a decade now), it's turnovers. We've seen this team thrive without putting up huge yardage totals or touchdown passes, so long as they can control the clock and punch it in with their multifaceted running game. Indeed, Garoppolo's biggest detractors have been able to point to a high turnover rate, an Achilles' Heel of his that's depressed his overall value for most of his tenure in San Francisco. But what's allowed Garoppolo to replicate his otherworldly 2017 here in 2022 has been his ability to avoid the costly interception. The list of games the 49ers have won this year and the list of games that 49er quarterbacks have avoided interceptions in is identical. If Purdy can find a way to feed the ball to his talented receiving corps without stumbling into a trap set by one of the many experienced defensive coordinators around the league, he'll give Shanahan the confidence to ride with him until Garoppolo is undeniably healthy enough to take the reins.

I'll predict that if Purdy can get through the Wild Card and Divisional Round games without throwing an interception, he'll be the starting quarterback in the NFC Championship game. Past that, he'll have to be a truly exceptional signal caller. But, if he leads San Francisco to a first-round bye or throws 3-4 touchdowns in the Championship Game, then we'll have a legitimate quarterback controversy on our hands.

However, focusing on that is ignoring the reality that hasn't changed at all this year, which is that the 49ers have to survive every single week from this point forward to even have that possibility. Without any other real options, Purdy is the man for the rest of the regular season.

The Niners are, without a doubt, hanging on by a thread. But now, they have a potential second hand on that thread as they hang on for dear life.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Mitch
    Call Drew Brees to do what? Stand there like a statue? He's been inactive for nearly two years. They don't need to call anybody. Don't be ridiculous. They need to ride with what they've got and get Jimmy G. back. Did you WATCH the game Sunday? Do you even know a background on Purdy?
    Dec 7, 2022 at 10:02 AM
  • BigAl
    They need to call Drew Brees
    Dec 6, 2022 at 6:19 PM


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