There may be no redemption story more helium inflated than that of Jimmy Garoppolo, the once-dead San Francisco 49er quarterback who has been declared the reason the 49ers have zero Super Bowls in the Kyle Shanahan era and is now being credited for being the major reason they might get one this year—all because most football fans are rampant nutcases know only that A) the quarterback is the only thing that matters, B) any point of debate is strengthened by shouting and pointing, and C) it’s someone else’s turn to buy the round. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of wishing you could be somewhere else hanging out with better people.
But Garoppolo is now being joined on the resuscitative trail by another longtime enemy of the state, Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. The once-successful Green Bay coach stripped naked by kingmaker Aaron Rodgers (and yes, we intend that visual be as disturbing as you imagine it) has gone to Dallas solely because Jerry Jones conducts coaching searches fueled by the trailer for the next NFL Network gab show, and because the Cowboys are always built to disappoint McCarthy has been slagged off as a slightly confused potato with a headset and corrective shoes ever since.
Until now, and most notably until Thursday evening when the Cowboys polished off the New York Giants to become the new best-team-regardless-of-record in the bereft NFC. McCarthy was aggressive in his play designs and calls, letting his best players perform as the best players and exposing the Giants’ defensive mismatches until they stopped being mismatches, which Thursday they never did. The Cowboys are 8-3, look more dynamic than either Philadelphia, Minnesota or San Francisco, and McCarthy is a prime beneficiary, easing slowly as Garoppolo is into a reputational renaissance based largely on not screwing up a budding good thing. As these career rebuilds go, it is occurring to those in charge of instant legacy construction that he was getting far too much blame at the time for things going crapside, and is about to get far too much credit for things going well. It is the way of our finest gasbags—find an obvious target and beat it stupid.
Anyway, McCarthy. As the Cowboys get healthy and begin their tour of the AFC South, or as it is otherwise known the Pastry Shop March, he is about to be lauded as the new Unappreciated Man, the doughy Kilkenny barkeep who finally figured out that Happy Hour means you lower prices rather than bump them up and is finally doing brisk business on the high street. He will eventually be matched on Christmas Eve with the overearnest caffeine freak Nick Sirianni of the Eagles and then Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel, the Belichick clone you would have a drink with without the fear of frostbite. We mention those two games because McCarthy can be demoted to his former rank as Turkey Carcass Designate with two losses, or he can be promoted to Fully Unappreciated Genius.
Then maybe they can get to the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco and Garoppolo, the once-fired shame of the city turned into This Generation’s Joe Montana in a typically hyper-flogged Fox testimonial to middlebrow hyperbole that explains the anticipated holiday demand for remotes with mind-controlled mute buttons. If nothing else, it will remind us all of the most important truth in all of sports, namely this: The legacies of the great, near-great and sewer grate are formed in almost all cases by this Thursday’s injury report. Tell us who else is playing, and we’ll give you all the MVPs and Coaches of the Year.