In recent days, media pundits, scribes and talking heads have come forth with various analyses and talking points related to Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. One popular point has been latched onto and repeated ad nauseum, and rightfully so. Many have noted the fact that ‘Jimmy G’ taking the reins at quarterback has immediately elevated the play and productivity of the players around him.
Some of this elevation is empirical – it is proved by simply watching the games and by looking at the stats. Think of Trent Taylor’s immediate uptick in productivity with his 6 catch, 92 yard performance against The Chicago Bears two weeks ago. Or the fact that Marquise Goodwin has totaled 14 receptions for 205 yards over the last two games, is well on his way to a 1000 yard season, and looking for all the world like a #1, chain-moving receiver. The offense stays on the field longer. The offensive line is playing better. Garrett Celek looks like Vernon Davis in his prime (OK, maybe not quite), etc.
But Garoppolo is also having a positive impact in intangible ways – ways that can’t necessarily be seen, measured or reflected on the stat sheet. One of those ways came to light through an interesting tidbit offered up by Robert Saleh today. The 49ers Defensive Coordinator was on KNBR’s Gary and Larry show, talking with Gary Radnich and Larry Krueger about the season, the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo, and the impact it’s had on the defense. You can check it out here; the segment is listed under today’s date. At about the 7:30 mark, you will hear the following brief exchange, which I have done my best to transcribe below:
Gary Radnich: How much does having Garoppolo……does that give you another little kick in the rear end like, hey, we’ve got the most important position on the field apparently solved, so I’m just feeling better about what I’m going to do defensively now?
Robert Saleh: You know what? What we do defensively, it’s always going to be, we’re independent. We’re operating the same way every week….
Gary Radnich (interrupts as usual): But you know my point, it gives you a kick, now you’re going to have some points on the board.
Robert Saleh: Yeah…which leads to the 2nd point….what it is doing, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s, there’s a belief on the sideline, mainly with the players… you get to a point where we had a bad…they (Houston) put together two scoring touchdown drives, back to back. In the past, or earlier in the season, there would have been a deflated sideline. But, the way they are operating right now, there is a true belief that if they just get the offense the ball, they’re going to go score. And so, that little bit of juice, that little bit of energy-that belief-is actually pretty contagious, and it’s leading to a fight that lasts longer, if that makes sense…”
So there it is. Where once was despair and deflation, now is determination and grit. A fight that lasts just a little bit longer. This belief the 49ers’ players are developing in themselves is, of course, a manifestation of a young team growing together and buying into a coaching philosophy. It is also born from this group having experienced some success together after having first gone though some tough losses. More significantly, it illustrates the importance, which can’t be understated, of adding a quarterback to a team who is a good (perhaps great) player, a steady presence; a leader both in the huddle and by example, through his work ethic, approach to practice and dedication to perfecting his craft.
This young, under-talented team is having, by most statistical accounts, a bad season. But they are happy, enthusiastic and hopeful. There is simply a buzz about these players now that is, as Saleh put it, contagious. This team believes in themselves, their coaches and management. Now they believe in their quarterback. They believe that Jimmy Garoppolo has that elusive “it” factor that is so hard to identify and capture, but which is so necessary for any great quarterback to possess.
This growing belief is not only starting to show up in the stat sheets and the win column, but also on the sideline. It spurs the defense to go that extra mile, pick themselves up when they’ve had a rough couple of series, and get the ball back for their quarterback so he can get them back in the game.
San Francisco has another exciting challenge coming this weekend, a tough foe in the Tennessee Titans. It will be interesting to see if this run of success continues. Make sure you check out my game preview later in the week to get you ready for the action.
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