Why 49ers benching Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t mean they’ve given up on QB

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Jimmy Garoppolo twice cost the 49ers investment capital — first when the team acquired him from the Patriots in 2017 for a second-round pick, and again when it signed him to a five-year, $138 million contract extension.

The 49ers spent years rebuilding their defense and gambled on Garoppolo being the piece to push them to Super Bowl contention. He arrived in San Francisco as a 26-year-old prospect, a label that does not usually portend elite level production. Yes, he had backed up Tom Brady in New England when he might have started elsewhere from the get-go. But he didn’t even attempt 100 passes there and in truth held value greatly inflated by a Bill Belichick-run hype machine.

San Francisco could afford not to rely heavily on Garoppolo last year due to its standout defense and rushing attack. This year is different. Because of injuries across the roster, he’s been asked to step up and make good on the trust his franchise has given him. So far, not so good. His abysmal first half in a surprise loss 43-17 to Miami last weekend sent him to the bench cast further doubt on his ability to carry a squad. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUI6YmBkj1w

Kyle Shanahan suggested he sat Garoppolo in that game for injury reasons; Garoppolo is dealing with a high-ankle sprain. But cynical observers wonder whether it was a sign the coach is thinking about options beyond Jimmy G.

At this point, it’s probably too early to think Shanahan would actually keep a healthy Garoppolo out of action. Even in a secondary role, Garoppolo threw 27 touchdown passes a year ago. He holds a 22-7 record in his career as a starting quarterback.

Add the fact permanently benching Garoppolo would be an explicit admission the front-office got one of its most crucial decisions wrong, and he should be safe for now.

Below is a further look at the quarterback situation in San Francisco.

MORE: Le’Veon Bell is now on the Chiefs, but will he play?

Why did the 49ers bench Jimmy Garoppolo?

Garoppolo went 7-for-17 passing for 77 yards and two interceptions against the Dolphins, but Shanahan avoided placing blame on the passer’s talent when explaining why he was benched for the second half.

Shanahan characterized his decision as a short-term move.

“Watching how we were playing as a whole (and) watching how he was playing, you can tell he was affected by his ankle,” Shanahan told reporters following the loss to Miami. “I know he doesn’t normally throw the ball that way and I think he was struggling a little bit because of it. The way the game was going, I wasn’t going to keep putting him in those positions knowing we were going to have to throw it a lot to come back.”

Will Jimmy Garoppolo start against the Rams in Week 6?

Yes, Garoppolo is expected to be in the lineup Sunday night against the Rams in a key NFC West matchup.

Who is C.J. Beathard?

Beathard took over for Garoppolo against the Dolphins last Sunday and has 10 career starts with the 49ers. He was a third round draft pick from Iowa in 2017 and would be first in line to play if Garoppolo missed time.

Beathard has been a disappointment so far in the NFL, carrying a 1-9 lifetime record throwing as many interceptions in his career as touchdowns (13).

Nick Mullens is third on the 49ers depth chart at quarterback, falling definitively behind Beathard after his poor play against the Eagles on Oct. 4

When was the last time the 49ers drafted a QB in the first round?

The last time San Francisco used a first-round pick on a quarterback was 2005, when it took Alex Smith with its No. 1 overall selection.