Nathaniel Kublin | Brown University
With the playoffs having launched full blast, one of the most interesting stories in the NFL took place entirely within the confines of the regular season.
There they were 0-8. My beloved San Francisco 49ers were sitting without a win at the midpoint of the season. My mind would wander back to XLVII, where the Niners worked their way through the playoffs to play in the biggest game of the year. My reminiscing was always brought to an abrupt end, though, by someone questioning if the 49ers were going to win a single game in the 2017-2018 season.
Then, in their darkest hour, the 49ers struck gold in what can only be referred to as the California Gold Rush of 2017. For a 2nd round draft pick (which is pretty valuable coming from a team that's been doing as poorly as the 49ers), they traded for Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy G. Jimmy GOATroppolo. The man who was once the best backup QB in the NFL is now the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. People enjoyed throwing out the fact that he was undefeated as a starting QB in the NFL when he was traded to SF, but I knew that he was ultimately a backup, and all that I could do was wait to see how he fit with the team.
A few weeks passed, and with just over 1 minute left in a game against the Seattle Seahawks, quarterback CJ Beathard was sidelined with an injury. With 67 seconds to work with, Jimmy Garoppolo took the field for the first time in red and gold. Over the course of three plays, he rushed for 4 yards and had two completions, one of which was a touchdown pass that saw a beautiful scramble by Garoppolo. While the game was already essentially in the books as an L, Jimmy Garoppolo ignited a spark under a previously sluggish team.
The following week, he was making his first start for a previously embarrassing 49ers team, putting his undefeated record as a starter on the line. After a long game with the Chicago Bears, the 49ers were able to pull out a 15-14 win, only their 2nd of the season. Admittedly, the offense did not score a single touchdown, instead relying on a series of field goals to clench the victory, but the team was now 2-10 on the season with their eyes to the future: a game with the Texans.
Now against a slightly better, although still not very impressive, team, the Garoppolo lead team was facing a more difficult challenge than the week before. With uncertainty still surrounding the team, and even more so the starting QB, this game was the teams chance to prove themselves- and that's exactly what they did. With a 26-16 victory, the 49ers improved to 3-10.
The 49ers were riding a two game winning streak, but it was against two teams that failed to produce much out of their seasons. The rest of the season proved to grow more and more difficult by the week. First was a matchup with the Titans, a playoff contending team. Next was the Jaguars, the team with a scarily impressive defense and a playoff future. Then lastly, the Rams, the division topping team boasting an MVP contender as a their running back. It was not looking good.
Starting with the Titans, the San Francisco team saw themselves down by 1 with the clock quickly draining away. All the momentum was on the brink of fading, but in a fairy tale ending, the 49ers did the unthinkable. Jimmy Garoppolo stepped onto the field, and with limited time drove the 3-10 offense down into field goal range, where Robbie Gould sunk his 6th field goal of the game to put his team over. Now 4-10, there was a sense of confidence instilled in both the players and the fans as the team traveled back home to prepare for the Jaguars.
Jacksonville spent the entire season thriving on an unparalleled defense. The team gave up an average of less than 17 points per game. Then the 49ers put up 44. I will repeat. The 49ers scored 44 points against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That is more than any other team scored against them this season. For the first time this season, the Niners won a game in an absolutely impressive fashion. This was not a field goal fest that came down to the wire, nor was it sluggish game against another embarrassing team. The San Francisco 49ers won by a score of 44-33 against a playoff bound team. The team was now 5-10, but that quickly became 6-10 after the 49ers put away a Rams team that was resting a collection of their starters.
Looking forward, the future is bright for the 49ers. While it may be my opinion that Jimmy Garoppolo looks better in red than he did in blue, it is a fact that he lead the team to a 5-0 record to end the season. With his teammates inspired by his leadership, and the fire he lit under everyone burning brighter than ever, only time will tell what this San Francisco team will do in 2018. Everyone in the league should be ready for next season, because Jimmy Garoppolo is still an undefeated starting QB in the NFL, and he has a legion of Bay Area fans that are excited about it.