Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
Following Sunday’s game against the Chiefs the collective 49ers fanbase went into a period of mourning that likely will last through the rest of the season. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo offered 49ers fans something they had not had since 2013: Hope. His play and presence reinvigorated the franchise and it looked like he was going to be on his way to being one of the faces of the league, but sadly his season is over and he will face the daunting task of having to recover from an ACL tear.
Coming into the 2018 season fans and the media viewed the team as a potential playoff team due to the aura of Jimmy G but now that he is on the shelf for the rest of the year they currently have the 5th worst Super Bowl odds in the league.
Although Kyle Shanahan is just in his second year on the job he seems to be uniquely qualified to tackle the responsibility of keeping the morale of this team up post injury. This is a Head Coach that had to endure a 1-10 start to a season with a laundry list of injuries while having to depend on a ton of rookies and inexperienced players. Shanahan has not had an easy start to his Head Coaching career and has to had struggle his way through a difficult situation. The rest of the 2018 season will present a similar scenario for him and given how well he dealt with it I have no doubt that he will rise to the challenge of keeping this franchise and these players motivated and continuing to move forward.
If Kyle Shanahan is the most important figure during this next 13 games, CJ Beathard is a close 2nd. Beathard has the unenviable task of having to replace a QB that so many believe is a franchise level player. A sizable portion of the fanbase and the media have already written him off and have resigned themselves to the notion that this team will be lucky to win 3-4 more games the rest of the season but given the comments from the rest of the players during this past week its clear that the team hasn’t written Beathard off. Beathard garnered the respect of the entire organization with his play last season, he was tough and resilient in a terrible situation and never once lamented the place he was put in. He was willing to stay in the pocket as long as needed and got the snot beat out of him on multiple occasion but it never made him falter or change his style of play.
Those experiences should definitely be helpful in year 2 of his career, where he should be a more confident and knowledgeable QB. He even displayed that on his only play of the game, it was 4th and goal from the 9 yard line; the first play after Jimmy Garoppolo was carted off and he had very little time to warm up. He threw a beautiful pass to George Kittle and had it not been for a terrible non-existent offensive pass interference call on Kyle Jusczcyk by referee Tony Corrente and his crew the 49ers would have pulled with a touchdown of Chiefs. On the stat sheet he never played but the throw he made indicated the progression he has made as a QB.
While Beathard will be under center he will not the focal point of the offense, that responsibility will fall on the shoulders, well I mean legs of Matt Breida and Alfred Morris. Going into week 4 the 49ers have the 6th ranked run offense per Football Outsiders & the 3rd ranked run blocking OL per PFF. They are averaging over 150 rushing yards per game and over 5 yards a carry while Breida comes into week 4 as the league’s leading rusher. Breida and Morris along with an OL that in 2018 is a far more efficient and effective run blocking unit have the 49ers in a much better position to absorb the loss of Garoppolo than they would have been in 2017. The concern being that with Garoppolo gone teams will load the box in order to challenge Beathard into throwing more than Shanahan and the team would prefer.
Replacing Garoppolo won’t be an easy task and it will take a collective effort from the entire roster and coaching staff, but this is a team and staff that have already been through a crucible and it made them stronger. To assume that this team will go into the tank is underestimating the resolve of this team, even with all of the issues they currently have.
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