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Teammates, NFL Rivals See No Reason to Panic over Jimmy Garoppolo's Slow Start

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterAugust 23, 2019

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 19:  Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sideline in the third quarter during a preseason National Football League game against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 19, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Richard Sherman has seen a lot of quarterbacks in nearly a decade of playing professional football. He's played against Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and played with Russell Wilson—all future Hall of Famers. So when Sherman discusses quarterbacks, he knows what he's talking about.

Now he's working in the same locker room as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco. While some people saw Garoppolo's first game in over a year as reason to panic, Sherman has a different message to impart.

"I know he will be fine," Sherman told B/R in the days after Garoppolo went 1-of-6 for 0 yards and an interception in his first preseason game Monday. "First game back after major injury with massive pressure in his face every pass snap. Not the ideal game to be back [from] first. Chubb made it that way."

That would be Broncos defensive lineman Bradley Chubb, who devastated the 49ers and helped leave Garoppolo with a 0.0 passer rating.

"Obviously [I'm] a little frustrated," Garoppolo said after the game. "But it's the NFL, unfortunately we don't get to play the whole game. ... You wish you could be out there for more so you could bounce back. ... It is what it is. It's the preseason right now, so you just gotta take it in stride."

Normally, after a game like that, there is a rash of anonymous trashing of a player. Particularly if, as Garoppolo did, that player signed a five-year, $137.5 million contract with $74 million in guaranteed money.

But the only people who seem to be panicking are some idiots in the media like me. In a striking turn of events—and a counter to the normally crass and panicky environment in today's NFL—the 49ers don't seem to be, and neither are others.

Sherman isn't, and while you could argue he is simply backing his quarterback, he's not alone in his views.

I asked five scouts from both conferences about Garoppolo after that game, and all of them felt that criticizing him based on that performance was ludicrous. They still believe Garoppolo will be a good quarterback for the 49ers and a powerful force in the NFC West.

Why is everyone so chill? The reason, as one NFC East scout put it, is a simple one: They've witnessed Garoppolo play well, even if it was briefly.

"I know he can do it," said the scout. "I've seen it."

Jimmy Garoppolo won all five of his starts for the 49ers after he was traded by the Patriots to San Francisco in October 2017.
Jimmy Garoppolo won all five of his starts for the 49ers after he was traded by the Patriots to San Francisco in October 2017.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Garoppolo's coach, Kyle Shanahan, agreed.

"In defense of Jimmy, he hasn't played a lot," Shanahan said Thursday, according to a team transcript. "When he has played, everyone has seen his ability and everyone knows he's in that club and everyone knows he not only has the ability to be in the NFL, he's got the ability to be one of the better ones.

"But, we've got to go through those ups and downs. It's not going to be is he good enough to do it. We all know he's good enough to do it. It's going to be how he reacts to that and how we help him with that, and that is what no one can account for what these guys go through in this league, at this position."

After the Patriots traded Garoppolo to San Francisco in 2017, he played in six games, starting five, and threw for 1,560 yards and seven touchdowns. It wasn't about the numbers, however. It was that he ran the offense well and showed tremendous promise. The following year, he tore his ACL in Week 3.

Now that he is healthy, most people around the league think we'll see the 2017 Garoppolo again.

But outside noise, if it is loud enough and goes on long enough, can squirm its way into setting the narrative for a player. And in Garoppolo's case, there is a huge paycheck that makes fans and the media expect huge things. But big paydays don't guarantee anything, especially with a rebuilding franchise like the 49ers.

Garoppolo inadvertently helped feed the narrative of expectations when he told Bleacher Report's Joon Lee last year that he thought he was better than Tom Brady.

"Even when I was a little kid, my brothers, whenever we would play, I would literally always think I was going to win," Garoppolo said. "I wouldn't, but I would always think that. It's like when I go to New England, when I first got there, I thought in my head, 'I'm better than this dude.'"

"But in your head, you believe you're better than Tom Brady?" Lee asked.

"It was always a quiet confidence," Garoppolo replied. "I would never speak that."

It's not unusual for athletes to think this way. This is what makes them special. They think no one is better than them. But that mindset creates an expectation that he will have to prove such quiet confidence was warranted. And a 0.0 rating in any game doesn't do that.

His teammates, however, don't see cockiness as the source of his preseason struggles. They see a fluke of a game.

The five-year, $137.5 million contract Garoppolo signed in February 2018 has put a spotlight on the Niners' starting quarterback he never had in three years as Tom Brady's backup.
The five-year, $137.5 million contract Garoppolo signed in February 2018 has put a spotlight on the Niners' starting quarterback he never had in three years as Tom Brady's backup.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press/Associated Press

"Jimmy, I think, he did a great job commanding the huddle and getting back and getting his feet wet," offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey said, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Obviously, stats or whatever—but it's the second game of the preseason and his first game in a year. It's nothing to panic about.

"It's his first reps he's seen live in a year. He's just going to continue to get better. Obviously, it's very valuable to get him back on the field and be healthy."

That's clearly what Sherman thinks. That's also what the 49ers think. Maybe we should all take that approach for now and just…relax.

       

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.