Imagine that the new guy at your job invites you over to dinner. You love his energy and think he could be a good hang, so you give it a shot. Over drinks, he reveals to you that he’s actually an alien in a human skin suit. You’ve had four back-to-back Zoom meetings earlier that day, and you’re three-and-a-half beers in at this point, so sure. Why not? The pandemic will get to everyone, one way or another.
“Well, John, you’re not gonna try to take over my planet or anything like that…. are ya?”
John, or at least who you thought was John, scoffs and rolls his eyes. His home planet has its heart out for humanity, he explains. Since the Jurassic Ages, they’ve been visiting here, vacationing on the beautiful Pangea coasts, marveling at the majestic wooly mammoths, and feasting on fresh megalodon fin soup.
They stopped coming after the asteroid, and in the time that’s passed, they developed the technology to surveil Earth in order to see when it’s safe to come visit again. (Hence, “birds.”)
From the comfort of their home planet, light-years away, they took note of how humanity pioneered flight, telecommunications, and a rich array of cities, scenes, parties, culture, and meaning. They also saw humanity descend into wars, poverty, oppression, genocide, subjugation, inequality, and health epidemics. They learned a lot from watching us humans analyzing from afar.
They had some consistent blind spots that their avionic surveillance kept missing despite all that. For example, they couldn’t fully grasp the emotional experience of being a human on planet Earth, certainly not well enough to fully understand how humanity constructs culture - its greatest and most unique gift to the universe. And so, “John” explains, they sent observers to integrate themselves on the ground, so they can take note of how humans navigate complex social situations.
By this point, you’re getting a little uncomfortable because this all sounds too detailed to be some mirage constructed in a bout of brain fog.
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because my colleagues and I are stuck on something, and I feel like you, and I trust each other. Can I pick your brain real quick?”
“As long as the brain-picking is kept strictly metaphorical, I’m all yours.”
“Why isn’t Jimmy Garappolo getting traded to Seattle?”
You almost choke on your drink. This has to be a joke, right? The most elaborate set-up to a prank in the history of the world, right? “John” doesn’t blink and continues on, totally committed to what you hope is a bit.
“I understand that they have to play each other twice a year, and there’s a scarcity to their playoff positioning. So that seems disadvantageous to trade a good asset to a direct competitor. But there are mutually beneficial reasons that should override their fear of helping their rivals. The 49ers have nobody else to trade with besides Carolina. Seattle needs a competent quarterback, and they have the cap space. The 49ers’ defense picked Jimmy off in practice all the time. All the time. Our finest pigeons in Santa Clara have proof.”
John takes a breath and continues on.
“There’s clearly some humanoid reasoning that we’re not seeing here. Tell me, why hasn’t this trade happened yet?”
“….because they’re the f*cking Seahawks!”
The idea of Jimmy Garrappolo playing for the Seattle Seahawks is so absurd on its face that only an alien from a distant planet would find it feasible. If it actually happens, it’ll feel like a glitch in the matrix, like the simulation is acting up, like the writers’ room of this season of Life has gone entirely off the rails.
But if you divorce yourself from your feelings as a Niners fan and try to look at this like a cold-blooded hyper-rational alien, you can see what planet they’re coming from.
First, the unpredictable quarterback market has put the 49ers in their place.
Going into the offseason, we all thought the demand would far outstrip the supply. “Too few free-agent quarterbacks, too many quarterback-needy teams, and a pittance of viable prospects in the 2022 draft”, we thought. Suddenly, Aaron Rodgers stays, Russell Wilson leaves, Tom Brady unretires, and a grand jury declines to indict Deshaun Watson.
Meanwhile, it seems like Jimmy nixed the Washington Commander’s reported overpay of an offer, and for some reason, his surgeon’s office was triple-booked through the entire month of February.
A bunch of unforeseen events transpired, and all of a sudden, Seattle has no quarterback while the 49ers have one too many. To make matters worse… Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Atlanta all made their move, simultaneously taking away Seattle’s potential options and San Francisco’s potential landing spots.
Seattle has almost no good options left, while San Francisco has almost no trade partners left. Carolina’s roster isn’t good enough for Jimmy, and Baker’s immaturity is a terrible fit for Seattle.
Seattle needs a leader who can make the requisite throws on third down while operating the run game. Pete Carroll doesn’t want his quarterback cooking - he wants to run down the opposing team’s throat so his defense can shine. His locker room just lost its longtime leader, ripping open a vacuum of veteran leadership.
Jimmy fills that void while Baker would degrade an already vulnerable/delicate situation. With around ~$25 million in cap space for 2022 (and around $93 million in 2023), Seattle can justify spending a little extra for a much better locker room.
Meanwhile, from our corner of the coast, we’re just plain out of options. It’s either this or an unceremonious release, which leaves nearly $8 million on the table because Jimmy can’t pass a physical yet. We never want to make our division rival better, but then again, there’s a reason we’re trading him.
Seattle is in the perfect storm to need Jimmy, and San Francisco is in the perfect storm to have to trade to Seattle. So why can’t it happen?
Because it’s taking a shape-rotator lens to a wordcel-influenced situation, if your brain is intact enough from internet damage not to understand what that means, let me explain.
“Shape-rotators” and “wordcels” comes from a Twitter meme in the tech world. Roon, a Twitter tech personality with the handle @tszzl, made some jokes about some people being much better at visuospatial ability, in contrast to those that are much better at verbal ability. IQ tests measure the former with visual puzzles to see if you can mentally rotate shapes correctly, and they measure the latter with vocabulary quizzes and analogies.
Presumably, if you’re good at rotating these shapes, you have more of a math/engineering mind because your brain is just naturally wired to tangibly put things together and make them fit. Wordcels, on the other hand, are better with concepts, manipulating ideas in the abstract rather than shaping them in concrete reality. Wordcels tend to get liberal arts degrees, work in marketing or sales, and write for Niners Nation.
This is all basic astrology and doesn’t actually mean the world works this way, but it’s a fun perspective. And it’s the perspective I think about when I hear John, the imaginary alien, ask about trading Jimmy Garappolo to Seattle.
Trading him to our biggest rival - the bane of our existences for over a decade - carries an emotional weight that can’t be measured by the scales of football justice. You can’t run the analytics on what a quarterback means to the locker room and to the fanbase, your two most critical stakeholders as a football operation.
The uncertainty and complexity of these humanoid emotions mean that some teams don’t dare mess with it and other teams say “eff it” and proceed with reckless abandon (cough, Cleveland and Washington). Quarterbacks aren’t just a shape you can rotate into an offense - you need those fickle emotional elements to line up, too.
The quarterback is more than just the most important position in sports - it’s also the most emotionally charged. It’s why everybody freaked out when Jimmy G went on that date with that nice lady in LA right after signing his contract extension.
John the Alien might ask why it’s such a big deal that a 26-year-old professional athlete, who just made some generational money, would enjoy himself with the company of a professionally attractive single woman?
Because he’s the quarterback, you say. He’s not supposed to rotate his shapes into places they don’t belong. He’s the face of the franchise, the leading man, a center of gravity for the team’s entire brand. And not just any old team - the San Francisco 49ers, a fanbase drunk on its own imagery and high off of its own elitism.
All this stuff matters for quarterbacks. In such an extremely visuospatial sport, it’s these abstract concepts and emotions that define what happens in the physical world. No amount of logical reasoning will ever lighten the psychic weight of “but it’s SEATTLE.”
But is that such a bad thing?
Jimmy going to Seattle would mean that we would have to face him twice a year, likely with high stakes involved. Nothing would be worse for Kyle and John Lynch than to lose to the player they publicly passed over. Nothing would be better for Trey Lance than to beat out the guy who took away your starter reps last year.
Giving Trey the chance to beat Jimmy twice - maybe with the divisional crown or a playoff spot on the life - would be the ultimate opportunity for Trey to cleanse old demons and start fresh legacies. You don’t need to rotate any shapes to visually understand the contrast between the two when you see them on the same playing field.
Jimmy gets his chance at revenge and Trey gets his chance at vindication. Set the student loose on the master - if he’s truly ready to be an elite NFL quarterback, he better be able to beat Jimmy freaking Garoppolo. In Seattle.
This kind of pressure works well with the type of high-level, super-hungry athlete that we all believe Trey to be... the overwhelming emotional charge of the situation can be converted into renewable fuel for Trey’s fire.
Rotate the words instead of the shapes - use that visuospatial ability to manipulate these abstract concepts of narrative into pure motivational energy. If the possibility that Trey’s predecessor playing for a sworn rival raises his (already reportedly very strong) hunger even a percentage point, then I don’t know what other downstream effect is more worth shooting for.
Instead of tiptoeing around the emotions of this situation… cannonball straight in and makes waves in both locker rooms. Seattle, and only Seattle, can cause this kind of humanoid wordcelling. I know it seems as far-fetched as an alien inhabiting the body of one of your coworkers, but real football is so far away that I just want to believe.