Maiocco: What Jimmy G's dud means for his, 49ers' future originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
It is not as if Jimmy Garoppolo made it look easy when he entered the huddle in the first quarter of the 49ers’ Week 2 game.
He later said it was like riding a bike — once you’ve done it, you never lose that skill.
The fact is, Garoppolo looked pretty much the same as ever when he replaced injured Trey Lance against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium last weekend.
He performed efficiently, certainly not spectacularly. And the 49ers emerged with a 27-7 victory that seemed to convince the masses the 49ers were in better hands in the short term with Garoppolo in the lineup.
During the week, Garoppolo spoke about the “freedom” he felt. He compared his mindset to the 2017 season. He arrived from New England in a midseason trade. He did not know the offense but still managed to play effectively en route to five consecutive victories to conclude the season.
That feeling for Garoppolo of being unburdened probably captured the biggest frustration for coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers.
It is the reason, beyond the injuries, the organization decided to devote three first-round draft picks (and a third-rounder) in order to move up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Lance.
When Garoppolo is healthy, he generally plays well. And, typically, the 49ers win.
But he never seems to take that next step.
The Garoppolo who showed up in 2017 and was flying by the seat of his pants is the same Garoppolo we’ve seen every season since.
It almost as if Garoppolo topped out in 2017. Any improvements he made in the subsequent seasons have been undetectable to the untrained eye.
Garoppolo seems to thrive on the freedom that comes with not fully knowing or understanding the plays he is entrusted to execute. He is at his best when he is not over-thinking it.
Shanahan’s offense is known to be black and white. He puts a lot on the plate of the quarterback.
Contingencies and adjustments are built into every play, based on how the defense responds with its coverages and number of pass rushers.
Garoppolo plays as if he finds clarity when some allowances are made for him not being expected to know all the answers.
When he was unexpectedly summoned from the sideline in Week 2, everything was just fine in 49erland.
But after he took over as the starter, and the 49ers had a full week to plan for him as the starter Sunday night against the Denver Broncos, the offense looked horribly insufficient.
Afterward, Garoppolo lamented the team’s lack of rhythm on offense. The 49ers’ offense looked out of sync. It looked like a unit with a quarterback who figured to be playing elsewhere this season.
Garoppolo was not around during organized team activities during the offseason. He did not take one snap during training camp, nor was he issued a playbook or involved in meetings.
That’s not an excuse. That’s a reality.
For one game, it seemed OK.
The next week, it was not.
Garoppolo has been gloriously imperfect during his time with the franchise. And that is probably what the team can expect the rest of this season, too.
On Sunday night, Garoppolo and the offense were more imperfect than usual.
Aside from the second drive of the game, during which the execution looked crisp, the offense’s performance in their 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos was an abject failure.
Dan Orlovsky, the former NFL quarterback whose name conjures images of a quarterback unwittingly running out the back of the end zone on a pass play, found delight as someone who enjoyed Garoppolo's faux pas.
Garoppolo dropped back to pass from the 49ers’ 2-yard line in the third quarter. Under pressure, he kept dropping back and dropping back until he finally got rid of the football while both feet were planted on the thick white end line.
Fittingly, perhaps, those two points from the safety were the difference between winning ugly and the unmistakable signs the 49ers are in immediate danger of allowing this season to get away from them.
The 49ers went all-in on Lance this season. And Sunday’s game provides another reminder of why the 49ers devoted vast resources to get a young quarterback to replace Garoppolo.
The 49ers want a talented, athletic quarterback who is going to get better over time.
Garoppolo has some time to get things back on track this season, just as he did a year ago after an abysmal start.
The 49ers trust when Lance is healthy and able to return next season, he will show steady and consistent improvement as he plays more and more.
Unpreparedness is a temporary state that can and should be vanquished.
It should never be viewed as liberating.