The San Francisco 49ers will return to practice next Monday, at which point we’ll start to get a better handle on the quarterback situation. The team has a decision to make between C.J. Beathard and Jimmy Garoppolo, and they have slow-played the process ever since Garoppolo joined the team.
General manager John Lynch said this week in a pre-taped interview with NBC Sports Bay Area that the 49ers do not need to rush with Garoppolo. He said they know what they have with him, and C.J. Beathard’s play has provided more room for patience.
On Friday, head coach Kyle Shanahan was on KNBR, and he talked about the time it takes to grow comfortable with the offense. He talked about basic understanding, and then also the more in-depth understanding to really get comfortable with the offense.
"It's going well. He's coming along. It’s something that, in my opinion, you won't feel totally comfortable with it until next year. But he's getting a chance because he's been grinding pretty hard, spending a lot of extra time up there with Rich Scangarello, our quarterback coach, and he's been really finding a way to where when he does get in, he can function. He knows a set group of plays. Whether, it's not just pass plays, he's got to be able to get us in and out of the right runs, all the situational calls, the short-yardage, the third downs, and he's coming along with that.
"It's something that I don't think you ever fully grasp until you've done it for a while. Even CJ’s still working his way through that, and he had all of OTAs, all of training camp. He's been part of a game plan going on ten straight weeks now. He's got a head start with that, but it takes guys a while, and I think Jimmy's moving along as fast as he possibly can."
It is not surprising this has some people overreacting, or generally laughing about how the 49ers are handling this. I’m taking things with a grain of salt when it comes to when the 49ers need to get Garoppolo out there. Lynch and Shanahan are playing their cards close to the vest, and I get that. It’s how things work.
But Shanahan’s comments about not being totally comfortable with it until next year should not be some odd revelation. We saw in Atlanta that Matt Ryan was not really comfortable with the offense until his second season working with Shanahan. There is the initial memorization aspect of it, but then there is the process of getting comfortable running and calling everything. Just because a quarterback has memorized the playbook does not mean he is then in a situation to effectively execute it. The language alone makes it complicated, but then you add in what you see from the defense, and it’s that much more complicated. Shanahan talked about learning the language.
"The terminology we use is from the West Coast foundation, which, obviously, started back with Bill Walsh, and the way we verbalize our plays and the concepts we use. Then you go to New England. I don’t know if it has an exact name — it’s definitely not West Coast. I’m not sure what it would be called, the New England offense then. A number of people have branched from that, but it's totally different. Where we use words to do formations, they use numbers.
“Then their plays are right to left, sometimes left to right. Ours are always concept oriented … Their protections are totally different. They might have a word that's a run play, but it's a pass play for us. It's little things like that where you just try to grasp your mind around it. You can usually learn it pretty fast just to function before you go out and you can repeat it so players can hear what you're saying. But then you've got to go to the line and process: What do these words mean? Where are these guys going? Not to mention, what's the front? What's the coverage? How do I get in and out of these checks? The hard part being how do I play quarterback versus the defensive I’m going against.“
C.J. Beathard is getting more comfortable having had all offseason in it, but Garoppolo is still flying along by the seat of his pants. It certainly is a plus for heading into next year’s offseason workout program, but for purposes of this season, it is still a significant work in progress.
People are getting jumpy waiting for Garoppolo to get out there. I think we can all stop and take a breath. Shanahan and Lynch have a lot to prove as head coach and general manager, but for the time being I’m comfortable with their decision-making process in this situation.