Jimmy Garoppolo has brought some joy and meaning to another losing season in San Francisco.
The 49ers pulled a power move on Oct. 30 when they acquired Garoppolo, New England’s well-regarded backup quarterback, in a trade for San Francisco’s second-round pick in this year’s draft. Since Garoppolo became the 49ers’ starter, they have won four consecutive games and greatly improved their offense.
Garoppolo, in a starting role for the first time in his four-year NFL career, has completed 69 percent of his passes and thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions. Garoppolo already has two games with 300-plus passing yards, and he averaged 10 yards per pass attempt two weeks ago against Houston.
The 49ers have long been in search of a franchise quarterback, and they were 0-8 when they made the trade for Garoppolo. The 49ers went that route, rather than the likely path at the time, which was to lose most of their remaining games and draft a quarterback, perhaps even UCLA’s Josh Rosen or USC’s Sam Darnold.
Garoppolo, who turned 26 last month, had been seen as a possible successor to Tom Brady with the Patriots, but Brady is an MVP candidate this season at age 40 and doesn’t appear close to retirement.
The problem for New England, and the catch now for San Francisco, is that Garoppolo can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The 49ers can mitigate that challenge in the short term, even if they fail to sign Garoppolo to a new contract, by applying their franchise-player tag to Garoppolo in 2018 (and perhaps again in 2019). By then, remaining with the 49ers might seem more attractive to Garoppolo.
WHO’S COACHING THE 49ERS?
Heralded as a bright offensive mind when he was offensive coordinator in Atlanta, Kyle Shanahan had a rough start to his rookie season in San Francisco. Not only were the 49ers winless until mid-November, but they also had only one game in which they scored more than 24 points (against the Rams).
Perhaps Shanahan just…