For half a decade, the eyes of the Faithful have been trained almost exclusively on Jimmy Garoppolo. But, from the second he arrived on the scene in 2017, Jimmy GQ has been the face of the franchise and the primary focus of the fandom.
From the countdown to his debut, to the incredible winning streak to end that season, to the ACL injury, the comeback, the Super Bowl, and the last dance this year, few quarterbacks have faced the kind of scrutiny that #10 received. So in today’s Gold Standard podcast, Levin Black and I wondered where we’ll focus once He Who Is Always Named gets traded.
Only four quarterbacks have been with their current team longer than Jimmy Garoppolo has been with the 49ers (Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Derek Carr, in case you’re wondering).
After such a long period of time, it’s easy for fans and analysts to fall into the same viewing habits - especially when they confirm their priors. Jimmy missed a wide-open receiver. Jimmy made a great throw on third down, for which he’s not getting enough credit. You know the refrains by now. But the song is about to change.
The obvious answer to the question is the play of Trey Lance. Much like when Garoppolo arrived in 2017, Lance is the shiny new toy on whose shoulders rests the hopes of a Nation. Surely the offense is going to function differently with Lance leading the charge.
Based on what we saw in Lance’s ten quarters this year, the passing game will likely not be as efficient as it was under Jimmy Garoppolo, but it will also feature more explosive, “wow” type plays from the quarterback. That difference was summed up very succinctly by Levin during the show:
“I sure hope so. At the very least, when Lance rears back and throws deep, I’m not going to be thinking, ‘Oh, shit.’ I’m going to be thinking, ‘OH SHIT!’ That’s the difference. When Jimmy was going deep, our thought wasn’t, ‘Oh, boy, what’s gonna happen,’ it was, ‘Oh, god, just don’t be picked off.’”
The other obvious answer is the game management of Kyle Shanahan. Under Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle was far more likely to sit on the ball at the end of the first half in a close game than he was to give the offense a chance to put points up on the board. Particularly with a lead. On fourth down and short, Kyle couldn’t wait to get someone that kicks the ball onto the field.
With Trey Lance under center, Kyle seemed far more willing to put the game in his hands -particularly on fourth down. In Lance’s first career start, on the road against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers went for it on fourth down five different times. In Lance’s second career start against the Texans, San Francisco went for it on fourth down two more times. Hopefully, that trend continues next season.
The 49ers are about to embark on a new chapter in franchise history. That chapter will bring with it a new quarterback, a new offense, and a new focus of observation for the Faithful after five long years.