We don’t do it often here, because we’re usually big fans, but we’re going to have to call out Kyle Shanahan. His performance in Sunday’s embarrassing loss to Miami was not impressive.
Others have run down the list of whiffs, misses and sacks the team allowed and committed. I recommend that you read them.
I’d just say I hope Shanahan went through all the possible scenarios when he yanked quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at halftime. Because they are all happening.
First, it became a national story. Pundits immediately called it a “benching.” (And, for reasons we will discuss in a moment, they had a point.) One talking head recommended that Garoppolo check with his realtor because he wouldn’t be in town much longer. There are already deep-dive stories about the trade that brought Garoppolo to the 49ers, and whether New England or San Francisco got the most value.
It also provided firewood for the Jimmy-doubters’ bonfire. The I-told-you-so’s must have been flying.
And it had to ding the confidence of the guy you chose as your bell cow QB – and paid him like it. After the game Garoppolo said, “My confidence is fine” and “I’m the quarterback.” But those are only things you say if you think others need to hear them for reassurance.
Shanahan had the “I’m only trying to protect Jimmy,” spin ready to go, even telling that to the halftime reporter. But it stretched credibility.
The official story is that Garoppolo’s high ankle sprain turned out to bother him more than he or Shanahan expected. It hurt and made it extremely difficult for him to push off his sore right leg and “drive” the ball. The idea is that Shanahan watched him all half and gradually realized Garoppolo could not physically make the throws.
Then why did Shanahan call time out with 30 seconds left in the half and the ball on his own 25? Presumably, it was to set up some Hail Mary attempts to cover 75 yards – or at least into field goal range – in 30 seconds. And you’re doing that with a quarterback that you say you already determined was too injured to play the position?
With the Dolphins playing deep, the attempted last-second drive was a setup for an interception. Which is what happened on a Garoppolo pass that looked like it should have had a nice orange glaze on it. And then the ball was returned far enough that Miami got an insult-to-injury field goal to make it 30-7.
The question is, if Shanahan had enough faith in him to try that, why not let him start the second half?
You have to hope the answer is not panic. This was a must-win game, it was slipping away and something had to be done. Maybe, Shanahan might think, “C.J. Beathard got us going last week, maybe we’ll try him.”
Because the I-just-thought-we’d-try-someone-else approach is a whole new can of worms. We can promise that Shanahan will now get a “who’s your starting QB?” question every day for the foreseeable future. Garoppolo will have to wonder if the team has lost faith in him.
Maybe they have. With the way the half ended, with two interceptions on poorly thrown balls, you’d think Garoppolo was terrible all day. But at the two-minute mark he was 6-11 for 77 yards, no picks and a 76.7 rating. He’d also been sacked three times — including the thunderous blind side shot that caused a fumble — hit five times and “hurried” seven times. As Nick Mullens found the week before, when there’s a lot of guys in the with different color jerseys in the backfield, it gets hectic.
Beathard-boosters, by the way, will note that he led a touchdown drive (as did Garoppolo). But it should be noted that he was bailed out on two third and long plays on that drive — one a sack and one an incompletion – by defensive penalties by Miami. He also fumbled under pressure. Beathard was fine, but he didn’t light up the sky either.
The real question is how does this play in the locker room? Garopollo was seen as the clear starter up until now. He’s one of the team captains and the Jimmy and George Show, a series of minor comedy routines with Garoppolo and George Kittle, has become a fan favorite.
Does the team rally around Jimmy? Or do they embrace the hard reality? You know the NFL stands for — Not For Long.
It is already sounding a little awkward. Asked about keeping the faith in their quarterback, Kyle Juszczyk said the team had faith in “all three” of our quarterbacks.
And you know what they say. If you’ve got two (or three) starting quarterbacks . . . you don’t have a starting quarterback.