Welcome to Super Bowl Week! There’s going to be a lot of interviews, retrospectives, predictions, etc. as we anticipate the San Francisco 49ers return to the big game and face the Kansas City Chiefs. While they had quite the turnaround from 4-12 to 15-3 in two seasons, the seeds were planted long before that. And with any seed, you just want to see a sprout that shows something is coming.
That sprout, for some, might be the moment Jimmy Garoppolo stepped onto the field. Against the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, quarterback C.J. Beathard went down. With just over a minute left and down 24-6, Garoppolo, a quarterback the 49ers were planning to not see the field at all as he got acclimated to Kyle Shanahan’s system, went under center. And it was the most magnificent minute fans had seen. They had bleak seasons under Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. Seasons where there was no identity. This minute with Garoppolo gave a feeling that just can’t be described, an “it” you just felt. Garoppolo took the team, and as the clock ticked to 00:00, hit Louis Murphy for a touchdown. The 49ers still lost 24-13, but it was the first loss I ever saw that brought hope.
This very drive and touchdown is the play that gave that small glimpse of what the 49ers might become. It’s that scene in an anime where the powerless wimp has a brief surge and knocks the big bad guy back, and you say, “if he trains, he could be unstoppable.”
For me, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see the 49ers get a touchdown in the final minutes of a game they were clearly going to lose. There was something here about all of this. From when C.J. Beathard went down, to the QB sneak Garoppolo did, to the touchdown throw, it all just kinda ushered in the era of Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers.
There was a time this same thing happened with Bill Walsh. In the 1979 season (Walsh’s first), the 49ers beat the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers and notched their second win of the season...in Week 15. After the win, fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts while the players carried Bill Walsh off the field.
Again, Week 15. The 49ers had just one more game to play and could at-best finish 3-13 (they lost their final game, however).
The NFL Network airs a series called “America’s Game,” which is an episodic documentary on a specific year’s Super Bowl champion. The episode focusing on the 1981 49ers started off talking about the 49ers squad from 1979 and this very game. Offensive lineman Randy Cross quipped, “There’s enough cheering that you really can’t hear the rest of the country laughing at you.” The late Dwight Clark, who would go on to be the recipient of The Catch, put it into excellent perspective:
In my opinion, it was celebrating what was beginning to happen, what was around the corner. We had a lot of success that year, we just didn’t win a lot of games. We all knew it was a matter of time before Bill got us where we wanted to go.
That pretty much sums up the joy fans had when they watched Louis Murphy catch a meaningless pass, for a meaningless touchdown, from a quarterback who didn’t know the system. That very glimpse articulated something was going to happen.
Things would never be the same after this. Do you think this was the moment the 49ers transformed? Or do you have a specific game, play, or moment of your own that defined the regime?
If you can’t see the video below, click here because the DMCA biscuits are probably blocking it.