Somehow the San Francisco 49ers did it again. They’ve gone on the road in the playoffs and come out the victor twice, despite subpar quarterback play from Jimmy Garoppolo. The Niners have shown that the dreaded “game manager” can still take a team deep into the postseason. For the second time in three years, San Francisco heads into the NFC championship game with the inferior QB by far. Whether they go to Tampa Bay or LA next week, it won’t matter because either team’s QB is going ahead of Jimmy G in 99.999 percent of fantasy drafts.
It is truly amazing to see Kyle Shanahan mix his new-school innovation with the old-school combination of a solid running game and stifling defense. Garoppolo has thrown for 303 yards, two INTs, and zero touchdowns in two road playoff wins over Dallas and Green Bay. Jimmy G’s really giving mediocre a run for its money at this pace. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should be the slogan for this Niners squad, since plenty of fans had called for Garoppolo’s replacement until recently.
Talk about doing just enough not to lose. That’s the tale of the tape on Garoppolo. The pieces surrounding Jimmy continue to hold up their end of the bargain while he does just enough to get by. Name another team that can scrape by winning not one but two close playoff games on the road while their QB throws zero TDs and passes for under 175 yards in each game. Jimmy G does deserve some credit, though, as he did make a couple of timely passes when the 49ers needed it most late in Saturday’s win over the Packers.
But Jimmy’s supporting cast and coaching staff also deserve a ton of credit for this current postseason run. Against the Packers, the 49ers did it with defense and special teams. SF blocked a field goal in the second quarter to keep it a one-score game at halftime. Then they blocked a punt and returned it for a TD to tie the game with under five minutes remaining in regulation.
Making it back to the NFC title game with Jimmy G now presents a bit of a dilemma for Shanahan and the Niners. They traded up in last year’s draft and selected Trey Lance third overall, and most people have been clamoring for him to take the reins since training camp. In this age of the NFL, it’s rare to see a QB taken in the top three not become the starter by year two. Many times, they take over during their rookie year. How much can the Niners really get in a trade for Garoppolo? Yes, he’s winning, but the team is having to overcome his lackluster performances, regularly.
The offseason will undoubtedly be an interesting one in the Bay Area. I almost hope the 49ers finish the year by hoisting Lombardi number six just to see how the drama unfolds in San Francisco. But that’s just crazy talk.