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A World Turned Upside Down

Feb 5, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Just when you thought we all had enough to worry about with a long free agent list on the chopping block, along came a drinking under the influence charge to quarterback Jeff Garcia. Jeff already dealing with a season filled with injuries and inconsistent performance did further damage to his image and credibility by being booked into the Santa Clara County jail for driving while under the influence of alcohol.

3:30 am is the time on an early Wednesday morning when quarterback Jeff Garcia was officially booked on this charge. He is now scheduled to make a court appearance on March 1st, according to the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office. Our beloved high profiled leader of the San Francisco 49ers has left an unpleasant image in all of our minds because of this.

And the fans that have been calling for his head throughout the season because of his performance and injury problems, in conjunction with the fine play of back-up quarterback Tim Rattay are using this very incident to increase the calling for a change immediately at the quarterback position for the San Francisco 49ers.

“We understand the seriousness of this matter and regret that it happened,” 49ers General Manager Terry Donahue said in a statement. “We are just thankful that no one was injured.”

Jeff Garcia cast himself into a spotlight that defined a true picture of what this past season has been all about. One that is full of inconsistencies and perceived weaknesses that grew stronger with each passing week. His image shaken he is remorseful for what has happened. In essence we all must honestly understand that this is a human error and this is a life lesson that can be learned from and understood to never happen again.

Jeff was pulled over by San Jose State University police near campus. Jeff Garcia attended the San Jose Shark’s game against the Dallas Stars Tuesday night, waving to the crowd there when he was shown on the scoreboard in that arena. Jeff is a 33-year-old bachelor that was out having fun with his friends this night and is a San Jose State University alum.

The setting was set for what would be a very embarrassing incident in his life as campus police spotted his sports utility vehicle performing an “erratic operation.” As defined by the police report when he was pulled over. Preliminary results showed Jeff Garcia’s blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit. Jeff is a resident in San Jose and has been the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49eres ever since Steve Young retired after the 1999 season.

Right after the devastating loss in the grand finale against the Seattle Seahawks at 3-Com Park, Jeff Garcia’s world finally came crashing down all around him in finality of the 2003 season. His troubles throughout the season have in essence been the troubles of the entire team. Everyone contributed to our failures in 2003 not just Jeff Garcia so let me be clear about this to everyone.

In just three weekends in succession Jeff Garcia looked like the Pro Bowl quarterback we all loved and adored. He was able to throw for large amounts of yardage and consecutive touchdowns and lofty quarterback ratings. But more so than not his performance was marred by one inability to make things happen after another, based on what was happening in personnel and in the play calling from the sidelines.

Yes his own individual performance does come into play in every game situation and the blame for the team’s failures rests a lot on the quarterback’s shoulders. But a new head coach and less then appealing play calling from our offensive coordinator Greg Knapp have a lot to do with the ills and vomiting of this team. So do these injuries to an offensive line that was almost always piecemealed together on every given Sunday.

Jeff Garcia is accountable though and he has publicly admitted after many a loss that he could’ve played better and that he did not take advantage of enough opportunities as they presented themselves. Like in the last game he did complete 22 of 38 attempts for 248-yards and two touchdowns. But he was also sacked three times, had an interception and failed on several key passes including one on fourth-and-one which would be San Francisco’s last and final offensive play in 2003.

“I didn’t play the way I am capable of playing,” conceded Garcia. “It’s disappointing. I missed out on some prime opportunities.” So what and who do we blame? Can it really be Jeff Garcia? These are hard-nosed questions we all have to analyze and deal with in our minds. Certainly in my opinion it was much more than the quarterback, although I’ll be quick to point out Jeff didn’t play up to his full potential but at the same time reoccurring injuries played a major factor into that.

Will the 2004 San Francisco 49ers continue with Jeff Garcia as their starting quarterback? Jeff Garcia is under contract and will be earning around $9.5 million and cost around $11 million against the salary cap. Do they go the economical way under owner Dr. John York by cutting him loose, and pave the way for new quarterback Tim Rattay? Or in the better scenario do they restructure his contract and bring him back again.

Certainly it is in my opinion and others that Jeff takes a reduced salary to remain the starting quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers and by doing so clears enough money so that other prominent 49er free agents can be signed and retained. Jeff Garcia as I have told this before is not all about the money. He is in reality one of the most selfless persons that I’ve ever seen as I’ve seen his generosity on display back in training camp in Stockton, California.

He is a one of a kind and is always receptive to children and 49er fans abroad wherever he is. He takes the concerted effort to make sure that all of the fans are greeted and autographs are signed before departing for pressing duties of his won. He is an athlete with exceptional class and demeanor as he is always pleasant to talk to and joke with.

Jeff Garcia’s true punishment for this crime has already happened. He does not need this incident to manifest itself into something that is damaging to his career as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. And when thinking about Jeff Garcia please remembers his good works compared to this one-time bad decision.

Jeff Garcia has done some great community work in the South Bay Area, particularly in the area of encouraging Latino youth to attend college, and he has backed it up by donating scholarships himself. Alcohol related incidents are nothing new to the NFL. And this one is no different as even our new head coach in Dennis Erickson was convicted of driving under the influence while the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks back in 1995.

Dennis Erickson even admitted and still does that it was the worst night in his career and his life. It is an incident that fortunately I’ve never seen and hope never to anyway. Others of you out there know and can relate to what the first time really feels like. Tremendous embarrassment and remorse have to be the orders of the situation when anything comes to mind I’m sure.

“First of all, I regret that I am standing here in front of you in this type of situation. As a member of the community, I take on my responsibility as a role model very seriously. I understand the actions or the responsibilities that somebody in my position sets within this community. I’m extremely embarrassed for my family, for the San Francisco 49ers organization and for the Bay Area for having to put them through something like this,” Garcia said.

“This is something that in no way, at least I hope, becomes a distraction to my teammates or the San Francisco 49ers organization. Because of legal issues, I can’t further discuss certain matters. But in all honesty, this matter will be taken very seriously. It’s not something that will be taken lightly at all. And it’s something I hope that I can put behind me very quickly. Thank you.”

In regards to Jeff Garcia’s contract that was signed for six-years, $36 million dollars in 2001, his contract already was restructured in 2002 and now has a salary cap of this year of nearly $10 million dollars. Jeff and his agent knew the complexities of this contract and knew that from time to time that restructuring would play an important role in keeping his job here as the starting quarterback. This year again is no different and the 49ers will look to Jeff to set the bar high in sacrificing a bit more for the future of this team.

“We’d like Jeff back,” Donahue said. “When we signed Jeff to that contract three years ago, we knew full well that this would be negotiated. That was discussed openly and candidly between the parties. There was no way that we would be able to swallow a $10 million hit.”

When final results came in on Jeff Garcia’s blood alcohol limit they exceeded nearly three times the legal limit at 0.237% in his body. Police that night gave Jeff Garcia two preliminary alcohol screening tests around 2 am that night, 10 minutes after he allegedly failed to stop behind the limit line at a red light, failed to yield to an oncoming car and weaved near East Carlos and Third Streets, the reports said.

After this just three minutes after the first a second alcohol screening test first showed Jeff Garcia’s blood alcohol content to be 0.219%, the reports said. The legal limit for drivers is 0.08%. Officers at the scene said Garcia had red watery eyes, dilated pupils and alcohol on his breath, and acknowledged that he “had a few drinks” that night, according to the reports.

Jeff Garcia acknowledged drinking at a hockey game around 7:30 that night and continued until 1 am at the Mission Ale House downtown. He admitted to drinking vodka and cranberry soda cocktails. Asked if he was feeling the effects of the liquor, Garcia allegedly told officers: “I have a buzz.”

The embarrassment from this incident has to have rocked Jeff Garcia emotionally and mentally to the core. He comes from a very loving and close family and is a testament to what an athlete that has nothing can do if he just sets his mind to doing it one day at a time. It is a time in Jeff’s life that he’ll always reflect upon and know that the consequences are always severe for someone that is in the public eye like him.

Still we all are human beings and cannot pass judgments down on one another but offer advice and suggestions of what we’d do if put in the same situation. Bad decisions often come when you are having too much of a good time. But where were his friends during this time and why did the three occupants in his Lincoln Navigator allow him to drive in the first place? In my eyes they are just as guilty in shattering what true friendship is all about.

Caring for and protecting the ones you like and love are primary beliefs that you must attain as an honest individual. Knowing that a friend is about to drive drunk is the worst possible scenario another so-called friend can put you in. It is a shame that this situation had to happen at all, when his friends could’ve prevented this by simply taking his keys away and forcing him to make a better decision.

Jeff was released on bail for $2,500 after spending one night there. He must now answer to two misdemeanor charges of drunken driving with an enhancement for an alcohol level of 0.20% or more. If convicted Jeff Garcia could face anywhere from 48 hours to six months in jail and fines up to $1,500 dollars. But a typical sentence would be 10-15 days of weekend work, said Deputy District Attorney Lisa Rogers.

This would also include a six-month alcohol counseling program and a ban on driving with any amount of alcohol while on probation, she said. Whatever the results, which we will all know soon enough, I feel Jeff has learned a valuable lesson on life. Certainly if Jeff had some stability in his personal life in the form of a steady girlfriend this matter probably would’ve never happened.

But as that is said and it has been said before. How do we really know? Jeff lives a life of a high profiled athlete that causes relationships to be strained at the very least. Privacy is something that is a luxury to these athletes as they are under constant scrutiny and open to smears and ridicule from the media like no one else.

It all becomes all to clear that these individuals regardless of their status are mere human beings like you and I. And that is something we just can never loose sight of when something as horrible as this happens.

In regards to Terrell Owens berating Jeff Garcia on his own personal website? I think that is sick and unjustified. Obviously comments like these pertaining to the fact we can never make a Super Bowl run with Jeff Garcia at quarterback are ludicrous and without merit whatsoever. It further defines just what Terrell Owens has done and continues to do in pointing his finger at himself and saying: “this team is all about me, me and me.”

This is a wide receiver that makes a Keyshawn Johnson look like a morning paperboy for God’s sake. It is a tragedy to hear so many crude and intentional damaging remarks made by your own star receiver over his own quarterback. Recognition and respect should be the order and if you have comments bring them to your head coach not to a public forum open to media predatory actions like a website with your well publicized name on it.

Pray for Jeff Garcia and his family. Help him deal with this incident like real friends should and that is to learn from it and put it behind you. Life is a curveball most of the time. You have to be in the right stance to hit it just right. Lord knows I’m no expert and never will be.

Jeff Garcia deserves the benefit of the doubt and needs our moral support now more than ever. Let him be judged on a season with no injuries and healthier teammates all around. Let him prove that he is the quarterback that can reach the postseason yet again and prove to all including himself that he is worthy after all.

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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