The Sky Didn't Fall in Santa Clara: Why Garoppolos Biggest Challenge is Himself
One morning a farmer woke up and saw that his horse had broken his coral and ran off. After breakfast, while he was mending his coral, his neighbors came by and said, “What bad luck you have.”
Without looking up from his job, the farmer replied, “Maybe.”
Later that afternoon, while working in the field, he watched his horse return with two wild horses behind him. “What good luck you have!” exclaimed his neighbors.
“Maybe,” the farmer responded.
The next morning, his son decided to start breaking one of the wild horses, and was thrown from it, breaking his own leg instead. His neighbors came over to check on the young man and said, “Such bad luck you guys have.”
“Maybe, “ the father responded, not even looking their way.
The following morning the Emperor’s generals showed up at the farmer’s house. They were traveling the countryside to draft soldiers, and they had heard the farmer’s son was quite strong. Upon seeing the son’s broken leg and the farmer’s old age, they left without taking anything.
As soon as the generals left, the farmer’s neighbors came over and exclaimed, “What good luck you have!”
Still watching the generals ride away, the farmer replied, “Maybe.”
This is a Buddhist parable told to help us learn that good luck and bad luck can easily change with time and perspective. Last Sunday, 49ers fans were hit with what definitely felt like bad luck. After losing Kyle Shanahan’s shiny new offensive weapon (Jerick McKinnon) in the preseason, nobody ran down the hall screaming; the offense still had Jimmy Garoppolo, which meant they could still win.
In another non-contact ACL injury, Garoppolo’s season has ended, not long after getting started. We immediately heard people start clamoring for this quarterback or that quarterback to be signed and save the season. We heard fans exclaim that the season had ended and maybe even Shanahan’s tenure could be ending as well. We heard that it was a mistake for John Lynch to sign Garoppolo to such a large contract without more game experience.
Now that we’ve all had a little bit of time to absorb this unexpected injury, lets also put some perspective into it. Injuries happen, and there are plenty of examples of players coming back to have fantastic seasons and careers. In his twelfth season (1997), Jerry Rice tore his ACL in the second game of the season. He came back the next year to have a stat line of 82/1157/9. Not his most dominant season in his career, but he did come play five more dominant seasons past that, plus a sixth season at the age of 41.
Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in 2011. In 2012 he had the second most yards rushing ever in the history of the NFL, falling just short of the record on a play where he chose to go down and preserve a win, instead of taking the rushing record. Tom Brady tore his ACL. A wrecked knee one year, doesn’t mean the end of a career anymore, so there is no concern that Jimmy Garoppolo, a very hard working quarterback, won’t come back just as good, if not better, than he was before the ACL.
It’s arguable that this ACL tear will have a profoundly positive affect on the 49ers climb back into dynasty mode. What if C.J. Beathard plays lights-out, or even as a top-15 or top-20 quarterback over the next thirteen weeks? Lynch will be trading Beathard someday, and if he can show that he is more Jimmy Garoppolo and less Jim Drukenmiller, that draft pick could be a second rounder from some team desperate for a franchise quarterback. Not only does Shanahan have confidence in Beathard, Garoppolo does too, telling Beathard to go lead these guys on his way to the locker room.
Garoppolo was handed a lot of money after playing in seven NFL contests. There is no one in Santa Clara who doesn’t believe in him. He’s been nicknamed “Jimmy Geezus.” Could it be a good thing for him to be brought back to earth? The reality is, this injury could have a profoundly positive affect on his career, giving him more motivation to be in the classroom and prepare his body even better. Yes he is going to miss a lot of reps, but he is also going to miss a lot of hits, as this team grows and learns to win.
When Joe Montana, due to injury, gave way to Steve Young, Young turned in some of the best seasons in history at that time, and minus the multiple Super Bowl victories, he was nearly as dominant as Walsh’s teams of the 1980s. Now, this isn’t a handing of the torch like that, but this injury will make players work a little harder at their craft, as Jimmy Geezus won’t be back there to save them. How much more astute will Dante Pettis and the other young receivers be, knowing they may need to create a little more space for Beathard than Garoppolo?
In that 1997 season, the 49ers lost Rice, but made the playoffs, coming one win short of the Super Bowl, mainly on the improved play of Garrison Hearst and the good play of a young Terrell Owens and an unheralded J.J. Stokes. The NFL is full of the next man up mentality, and for that reason only, the experience this season will give Beathard and the other offensive players will allow them to shine without Garoppolo, making next year’s possibilities even greater.
Yes we all want to see Jimmy play. We all hate to see the injury, but the sky is not falling. In fact, if you look long enough, you can even see the clouds parting for a bright and sunny future.
So when a friend or coworker asks you if the Niners could still make the playoffs or states what bad luck losing Garoppolo and McKinnon in the same season is, just look away and reply, “Maybe.”
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