Jimmy Garoppolo still stinks on ice, and I can prove it. Too many people are too pot-committed to him stinking, and the rule of thumb in all circumstances is to pander to the most people regardless of data. Thus, the popular vote is that Garoppolo actually failed last night by not failing.g
The San Francisco 49ers ax-handled the Los Angeles Rams Monday night, 31-7, despite the Rams trotting their sparkly new playthings, Odell Beckham The Second and Von Miller Also The Second. ESPN had barely completed its pregame panderthon to the Pentagon before Matthew Stafford threw the first of two crushing interceptions, and the hype surrounding Beckham (two catches, 18 yards) and Miller (two tackles and a whole lot of not quite there enough) soured quickly like Listerine cabernet. Steve Levy put it best when he disgustedly described a late Stafford pass to Van Jefferson as “not even close,” which by calling it a pass was still giving it more credit than it deserved.
The AYSSM (are-you-seriously-shitting-me) result was, to be honest, a monumental triumph for the 49ers’ often hinky defense, which ruthlessly bullied the Kroenke offense for all but one drive. Rams coach Sean McVay employed a fake field goal from the 49ers’ 17-yard line near the end of the first half, a measure of watch-me-be-clever arrogance mixed with watch-me-panic-my-trousers-to-overflowing fear. Stafford was perilously close to being as bad start to finish as Russell Wilson was in Green Bay the day before, and if the Jimmie Ward pick-six wasn’t enough to make the Mannings walk off their treehouse playpen set in nauseated disgust, the five receiver drops surely were.
But because the 2021 49ers have been defined against their will as a weekly referendum on Garoppolo and his obstinate refusal to give his job to the wildly underseasoned Trey Lance, last night’s game was actually one more example of a fan base watching its team win while still not getting what it really wants: a humiliating quarterback change as part of a grander scheme to get head coach Kyle Shanahan to fire personnel man Kyle Shanahan.
Garoppolo, you see, is every 49ers quarterback not named Montana in that his existence offends large segment of the fan base. The team’s trademarked description of its fan base as “49er Faithful” is a lie of almost Trumpian scope because the fan base has found ways to hate nearly every starting quarterback it has ever had. Indeed, Garoppolo has been most praised for being industrial-strength pretty, even though his eyebrows are two stretched hamsters. He hasn’t been fun enough for fantasy league twerps, intrepid enough for amateur experts, or Mahomes enough for anyone. All of which is fair, because he is none of those things. Worse, he has been declared dead meat since Shanahan traded up to draft Lance this past April; from that moment, experts, pundits. blowhards, gasbags, weekend auctioneers, and tailgate-level-drunks have been trying to wedge coins into Garoppolo’s eye sockets in hope of hastening his departure, kidnapping, or death. Any of the above would do.
He put up modest numbers in a strangulation piece on the Rams, replacing splashy fantasy swag with reptilian efficiency (a 141.7 quarterback rating, 87.1 better than the rest of the division this weekend). The 49ers offense—or as we should refer to it by its official name, Shanahan—held the ball for 39 minutes and three seconds, the sixth-highest regulation total of the year, converted eight of 14 third downs, outgeniused McVay 335 yards to 278 and now have five straight victories against him, and won their first actual in-house home game since last October. In other words, Public Enemies 1 and 1A kicked metric tons of ovine ass, and you know what the result of that is?
Garoppolo still stinks, because the narrativistes are still too committed to the concept of Lance, who has played almost not at all because (a) he hasn’t done nearly enough to impress Shanahan, and now (b) is watching Garoppolo either be the winning quarterback or not be the reason for the team losing.
And even in the modern game where the lure of the rookie contract makes even Bill Belichick dress in adult clothes, the rule remains that to be the quarterback, you gotta beat the quarterback. Shanahan’s plan all along was to have Lance watch Garoppolo for at least a year and maybe more without irreparably oxidizing, and Garoppolo has held serve despite some early-season stinkers. And now that those stinkers seem to have dissipated, Lance looks further away from the field than ever, which means the base fan base, blowhard commentariat, and punditocracy all look stupider than usual, and the fans who wanted the 49ers to lose so that Lance could play quicker are now stuck with a team that is 4-5, a half-game out of a playoff spot in the top-heavy NFC and playing Jacksonville and Minnesota in the next two weeks.
And don’t let those fans say they are pleased by last night’s developments, even if you err and allow them to approach you. They are not. They needed defeat because of their historical worship at the altar of clipboard life, even if that meant losing to the Rams, whom they profess to hate but actually envy. Instead, they must wince painfully in victory and continue to endure the continued magnetic presence of Garoppolo’s impossibly dreamy eyebrows and the inexplicable sorcery that emanates from them.