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Shanahan: The Guys Believe in Jimmy

Bret Rumbeck
Dec 21, 2017 at 5:40 AM


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Imagine the humans who lived 6,000 years ago and observed the change of the seasons. As the autumn days grew shorter and shorter, people across the globe knew what was coming: the frozen grip of impending doom. It must have looked like a fantastical power from a celestial being in the stars, testing the souls of mortal men walking the earth.

Only deep faith and belief would keep these people safe from the Grim Reaper's icicle scythe.

I imagine my skepticism would have had me burned at the stake for witchery in early civilization.

"It's science!" I'd scream. "Look at the abacus and these numbers! And the written history! We don't need to tithe to the high chieftain! He won't make the sun return! Winter happens every year at this time!"

Blame it on lack of immediate faith, a backbone built on skepticism or the rain; it's why I was hesitant to embrace quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as the instant answer for the San Francisco 49ers.

If you've followed professional football long enough, you've seen this trend in the NFL. A team finds a rookie, salty veteran, or a free agent superstar and boldly announces, "We have our guy, and now we're ready to compete."

Fans applaud the move, proclaim the player's divine destiny and get excited about OTAs and training camp. We talk the player up, and the team reporters do a series of feel-good, in-depth interviews with him. Things are looking amazing, and this guy hasn't set foot on the field.

Once the regular season hits, the player makes little to no impact, and the team is no better than it was the previous year. The season ends, and football comes full circle. For reference, I point you to the current Cleveland Browns and the Matt Millen-led Detroit Lions.

On October 30, 2017, Garoppolo made the transactions section of the sports page and brought with him 94 career passing attempts over four seasons. He only knew the Erhardt-Perkins offense and hadn't thrown a regular-season pass in over a year.

Even if head coach Kyle Shanahan wanted to start Garoppolo immediately, there was still that nagging issue with a sub-par offensive line and an offense missing key skill position players.

Garoppolo's film showed he has a fundamental superiority over Brian Hoyer or C.J. Beathard – pocket presence, a quick release, field vision – but sound fundamentals and 94 pass attempts are not enough to determine an outcome of any quarterback.

These were the facts at the end of October and fueled my skepticism about Garoppolo's immediate success, not his long-term possibility for the 49ers.

All that changed on Sunday.

It's more than Garoppolo being fundamentally better than Hoyer or Beathard.

Garoppolo has what both lack: He brings the 49ers belief.

In his post-game press conference on Sunday, Shanahan stated, "Obviously, the guys believe in Jimmy, and they know he can make some plays. I think everyone can see that. They're all believing in each other too, and they've gotten better each week."

A belief in a leader is more significant than any physical trait for an athlete. The DNA of sport is bonded together with repeating nucleotides: heart, size, speed, coordination, brains, and luck. Garoppolo has these chromosomes, but he now has the team believing in him and one another.

Previous 49er teams had quarterbacks who gained the respect of the offense, which will win you some games and even bring a trip to the Super Bowl, but respect is not belief.

I have no doubt the ten men in the offensive huddle believed in Hoyer, even if their belief was nothing more than a God-shaped hole filled with an empty promise. After Hoyer left, these men probably believed in Beathard, and while Beathard's ability to take a hit was inspiring, it wasn't enough to turn the season around.

"The guys believe in Jimmy…"

At one point in the game, Garoppolo tossed a fade route from the 20-yard line to Marquise Goodwin. It was incomplete, but one of our local crew noted, "You don't call plays like that unless you believe in your quarterback."

He's right. Shanahan didn't believe that play would succeed with previous quarterbacks, but he knew Garoppolo could make it happen. And right now, Garoppolo has every offensive player ready to follow him into the iron jaws of death and ask for another round getting chewed by incisors and molars.

Garoppolo isn't a hero or a savior. He's not Montana-reborn or a clone of Tom Brady. He's the embodiment of belief that the 49ers have lacked for a decade or more. He's what fans want to rally behind and have the faith that no matter how bleak the outlook, they have an unshakable faith in the man behind center.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
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.


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