The San Francisco 49ers are as hot as any team in football right now, winning three straight since Jimmy Garoppolo moved into the starting lineup. Garoppolo has set franchise records for performance through his first three 49ers starts, and optimism is high right now.
A popular question right now is, where would the 49ers be if Garoppolo had been their starting quarterback since Week 1. This week’s theme week for the SB Nation NFL blogs is “the one thing I would change about my team’s season.” The 49ers approached the Patriots in the offseason about a deal, but were quickly shot down. Naturally, I think most of us would change it so that the 49ers acquired Garoppolo in the offseason and he would be the starter now.
User jbarnor put together a FanPost about “what could’ve been” if Garoppolo had been starting since Week 1. The post is a little bit optimistic, suggesting the 49ers would have won all five of the field goal or less losses, and thus be 9-5 and atop the division. You can’t just insert X amount of points with Garoppolo, but it is at least interesting to consider what could have been.
The 49ers record prior to Garoppolo was 1-10. The games included
Week 1: vs. Panthers - 23-3 LOSS
Week 2: @ Seahawks - 12-9 LOSS
Week 3: vs. Rams - 41-39 LOSS
Week 4: @ Cardinals - 18-15 LOSS
Week 5: @ Colts - 26-23 LOSS
Week 6: @ Washington - 26-24 LOSS
Week 7: vs. Cowboys - 40-10 LOSS
Week 8: @ Eagles - 33-10 LOSS
Week 9: vs. Cardinals - 20-10 LOSS
Week 10: vs. Giants - 31-21 WIN
Week 12: vs. Seahawks - 24-13 LOSS
There is plenty to debate about the five losses by a field goal or less. The Seahawks, Cardinals, and Colts games all seem eminently winnable. On the other hand, in the Rams game, Brian Hoyer threw for 332 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Maybe Garoppolo gets them over the top, but they got some solid production with Hoyer. Any game decided by a field goal or less is more often than not a toss-up when comparing what happened with hypotheticals.
The more interesting games to me are the blowout losses. They were only down 3-0 to the Philadelphia Eagles before a touchdown and a pick-six in the final few minutes of the second quarter turned it into a laugher. On the other hand, the Dallas game saw the defense run over in the first quarter, dropping behind 14-0 before the first quarter was even halfway complete. Again, anything can happen in a hypothetical, but that was one game where the defense was routed from the get-go.
It would be mostly guess work to suggest how the 49ers would stand right now if Garoppolo had been starting from Week 1. Of the ten losses, the five single-digit games are clearly toss-ups. The second losses to the Seahawks and Cardinals were by 11 and 10 points, respectively. They are not toss-ups, but they would have been more interesting with Garoppolo in the saddle. That’s seven games right there that could have swung differently, so you’re looking at a team that could at the very least have found themselves at .500, if not better.
It’s all just speculation, but it is interesting to consider as we head toward the offseason. Barring anything unexpected, the 49ers are going to be a popular playoff pick next summer. It will be hard to really qualify them as a sleeper if Garoppolo is starting when training camp arrives.